Trump Expected to Call for Expansion of Private Medicare Advantage Program

ORLANDO — President Trump is expected to unveil a new executive order on Thursday afternoon that calls for expanding the benefits offered by private Medicare plans, framing the decision as the responsible alternative to the “Medicare-for-All” policies supported by some of his Democratic political opponents.

Seniors “like what they have, so the president is going to protect it,” Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, said in a conference call with reporters ahead of Mr. Trump’s afternoon speech. “Today’s executive order makes very clear his commitment to protecting Medicare.”

The executive order, which Mr. Trump is expected to introduce while visiting the country’s largest retirement community, known as The Villages, in Florida, seeks to beef up Medicare Advantage, the plans offered by private insurers that contract with Medicare, which currently cover about a third of the program’s 60 million beneficiaries, according to senior administration officials. The order also calls for lowering premiums in Medicare Advantage, allowing providers to spend more time with patients and reducing Medicare fraud.

“This president has been focusing on health issues that many administrations have ignored for decades,” Joe Grogan, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said on the morning call.

[Medicare for All? For More? Here’s How Medicare Works.]

The executive order, originally called “Protecting Medicare from Socialist Destruction,” was renamed “Protecting and Improving Medicare for our Nation’s Seniors” ahead of Mr. Trump’s speech. But administration officials called the renaming a distinction without a difference.

Mr. Grogan said that the goal was to contrast what he said was the administration’s commitment to protecting seniors with “the vision for Medicare as a one-size-fits-all, single-payer system” supported by many Democratic candidates. He said the plan offered by Democrats would destroy health benefits for seniors who had paid into this program for their entire lives.

“Medicare for all is Medicare for none,” added Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who has been a vocal critic not just of the Democrats’ proposals, but also of the Affordable Care Act. “Proposals like Medicare for All, as well as the public option, they are morally wrong because they would demote American seniors to second-class status.”

Democrats competing for their party’s nomination for president strongly disagree: All advocate expanding health care coverage, though their strategies to do so vary.

Mr. Trump’s appearance in a veteran-heavy, Republican-leaning region of Florida comes as his advisers are pushing him toward what they view as a winning campaign issue and away from a focus on the impeachment proceedings underway on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly promised to unveil a new health care plan; instead he has issued a series of executive orders and proposed rules to counter Democratic health care proposals for expanding coverage.

In July, for instance, the administration said it was taking steps to make it easier to import some drugs from Canada and to force hospitals to disclose the discounted prices they negotiate with insurers. Administration officials on Thursday morning underscored what has become a frequent talking point for Mr. Trump: that the price of prescription drugs fell in 2018 for the first time in decades. But that claim is misleading; while the Consumer Price Index for prescription drugs declined in 2018, many experts say that is too narrow a measurement and that prices for many drugs, especially brand-name ones, have continued to rise.