Warnings of "Stealth Privatization" Effort as Trump Signs Executive Order Expanding Medicare Advantage Plans
October 4th 2019
By Jake Johnson
President Donald Trump on Thursday delivered a speech bashing Medicare for All with right-wing talking points and signed an executive order aimed at steering more elderly Americans into the arms of the private insurance industry.
Trump signed the executive order during an event Thursday afternoon at The Villages, a large retirement community in central Florida. Under the new order, the government will encourage patients to consider private Medicare Advantage plans as alternatives to traditional Medicare, which covers tens of millions of elderly Americans and people with disabilities. The directive would also expand supplemental benefits Medicare Advantage can offer.
Michael Lighty, an activist with the Democratic Socialists of America's Medicare for All campaign, said Medicare Advantage plans "are the worst and most accurate example how we pay the wrong way for healthcare."
"The healthcare industry loves them, too—they are the fastest growing, most profitable private health plans, which are heavily subsidized by taxpayers," Lighty told Common Dreams. "Compared to traditional Medicare, the Medicare Advantage plans cost more, and restrict access."
In a statement, Social Security Works president Nancy Altman called Medicare Advantage "a hustle designed to allow for-profit corporations to suck up public dollars."
"Medicare Advantage is stealth privatization intended to undermine traditional Medicare, which is an effective, popular government program and therefore loathed by Republican ideologues," said Altman. "Today's executive order is yet another giveaway to the corporations that run Medicare Advantage plans."
"Ironically," Altman added, "the Trump administration is framing the executive order as an attack on Medicare for All. In fact, the massive flaws of Medicare Advantage epitomize the need to get for-profit greed out of health care by improving Medicare and expanding it to cover all Americans."
As Trump parroted right-wing fearmongering about Medicare for All—such as the claim that it would lead to far longer wait times for care—consumer advocacy group Public Citizen said the public should not "be fooled by Trump's corporate-backed talking points."
During his speech Thursday, Trump presented himself as a champion of Medicare and falsely claimed Medicare for All would "steal" healthcare from seniors.
"These people on the other side—these people are crazy by the way, they're totally crazy—they want to take it away and give you lousy healthcare," Trump said of Medicare for All supporters. "They want to raid Medicare to fund a thing called 'socialism.'"
But progressive critics responded that it is Trump and his Republican allies in Congress who are working to destroy Medicare, not those calling for the program to be improved and expanded to cover all Americans.
"Trump and his cronies have already proposed drastic cuts to Medicare: $845 billion—billion with a 'b'—in cuts in Medicare over the next ten years," Barbara DeVane, secretary of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, said during a press conference earlier Thursday. "Now that's a fact, folks. You know it, I know it."
Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care, said in a statement that "actions speak louder than words."
"Trump's budget cuts nearly a trillion dollars from Medicare, and his Texas lawsuit would reopen the Medicare 'donut hole' for seniors and jack up their prescription drug costs, all while he and his GOP allies refuse to end the ban on Medicare negotiating lower prices for prescription drugs," said Woodhouse. "No amount of lip-service or false promises can undo the damage he's already done, and will continue to do to Americans' healthcare."
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