President Trump expands private options under Medicare

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — On a trip to one of the country’s largest retirement community in Florida Thursday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order expanding Medicare Advantage, the program’s private option.

“We’re making your Medicare even better and … it will never be taken away from you,” Trump told seniors at The Villages, which is northwest of Orlando. “We’re going to give you options you want and we will provide the quality you deserve.”

He said the expansion will lower costs and give seniors access to new technologies like tele-health care.

“This means we’re putting money back into the pocket of America’s seniors,” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said at the White House.

The president said the expansion is important to protect the Medicare benefits that he argues are under attack by Democrats who support a universal Medicare for All plan. Policy experts disagree.

“That’s crazy political talk that’s coming from the White House, which is exactly what it sounds like,” Dr. Leighton Ku, a health care expert at George Washington University, said. “We don’t really know whether there will be Medicare For All plan, what it will look like. … That’s just sort of a political shot.”

But he added that if the Trump administration can deliver on its promises, seniors will benefit.

“Expanding options is always good. Will it bring down prices? That’s a little harder to know. That’s one of the things the market will figure out,” Ku said.

About a third of Medicare recipients are currently enrolled in the Medicare Advantage option. The Trump administration says that with added benefits, that number should rise.

The president’s executive order previews a debate that will be central on the 2020 campaign trail, with health care continuing to be a top issue among voters.