President Trump on Thursday attacked “Medicare for All” and called his Democratic presidential rivals “maniacs” as he tried to make his case on health care ahead of next year’s election.
Trump, speaking at The Villages, a sprawling retirement community in the key swing state of Florida, sought to portray himself as a protector of Medicare for seniors, in contrast to Democratic plans to expand the program to everyone through Medicare for All.
“They want to raid Medicare to fund a thing called socialism,” Trump said of Democrats.
“The last administration frankly was moderate compared to the maniacs you’re hearing from today,” he added, pointing to “Elizabeth Pocahontas Warren,” whom he said appeared to be his leading challenger.
Warren backs the Medicare for All plan that would provide government health insurance to everyone with no premiums or deductibles. Trump argued Thursday that Medicare should remain only for seniors and that expanding it would jeopardize the program and require tax increases.
Trump also signed an executive order to strengthen Medicare, aimed at driving his message home. The order aims to strengthen Medicare Advantage, the branch of Medicare that is administered by private insurers and that Republicans warn would be abolished under Medicare for All.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) argued that Trump’s executive order showed that the president is worried about disguising his real health care record, saying in a statement, “This executive order is an admission that the President and Republicans are worried that American voters can see through their health care ploys.”
Democrats won back the House of Representatives last year in large part on the issue of health care, campaigning against Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
As a counter, Trump has rolled out a series of health care initiatives, including taking action in an effort to lower drug prices and increase transparency in health care.
But Trump also made clear Thursday that he still hopes to repeal the Affordable Care Act if he wins reelection and if Republicans take back the House.
“If the Republicans take back the House, keep the Senate, keep the presidency, we’re going to have a fantastic plan,” Trump said.
Trump is also supporting a lawsuit currently in the courts seeking to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act.
Congressional Republicans are seeking to focus not on repeal of the ACA but instead on attacking Democrats’ Medicare for All plans, warning they would eliminate private insurance.
Trump echoed those attacks on Thursday.
“They want to raise your taxes” to pay for the plan, Trump said.
“Listen to this number, $32 trillion,” he said of Medicare for All’s cost. “With a T, we’re beyond the B’s, the billions.”
Supporters argue that while taxes would go up, most people’s total costs would go down, given that premiums and deductibles would be eliminated.
Trump also called for lowering drug prices, a key issue for him.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is hoping that Trump will endorse her plan introduced last month to allow the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower drug prices, something Trump supported in his 2016 campaign before backing off.
Trump made no mention of the Speaker’s plan on Thursday, though.
He instead touted Florida’s plan to allow the importation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada, saying the proposal would be approved “soon.”
His administration has taken a preliminary step towards allowing imports, but several steps remain before cheaper drugs actually would arrive.
Trump also did not totally set aside the impeachment push against him, even implying, without citing evidence, that pharmaceutical companies could be behind the “hoax” because they are opposed to his efforts to lower drug prices.
“[I] wouldn’t be surprised if it was from some of these industries that we take on,” he said.