- President Donald Trump signed an executive order in Florida on Thursday he said would bolster the Medicare program as numerous Democratic presidential candidates seek to expand the program beyond seniors, a move Trump said would jeopardize the entire program.
- The order would allow Medicare Advantage (MA) plans to offer more novel benefits and allow beneficiaries to join in on some of the savings payers are able to deliver through cash or rebates.
- The order also calls on regulators to examine ways to modify payments in the fee-for-service program to bring them in line with those paid under Medicare Advantage and to find ways to improve the enrollment process.
President Donald Trump warned an auditorium full of seniors in Central Florida that Democratic healthcare proposals from presidential candidates would spell doom for the Medicare program.
"These people are crazy," he said referring to Democrats. "They want to take it away," he said Thursday at The Villages, a senior community in Florida. "As long as I'm president, no one will lay a hand on your Medicare benefits."
Trump derided the ideas, commonly referred to as "Medicare for All," as socialized medicine that lead to rationing care, diminished quality and higher taxes.
The nation's insurance lobby applauded the directive, saying it would improve choices for seniors and those with disabilities.
"We support the executive order's direction to improve seniors' access to care in Medicare Advantage, including expanded use of telehealth, greater flexibility in designing high-quality provider networks, and encouraged innovation in value-based care," Matt Eyles, CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, said in a statement.
The executive order gives wide latitude to HHS Secretary Alex Azar to draft a series of regulations to tackle a range of topics from alternative payment models to reducing regulatory burdens.
For example, to improve access to providers, the order allows changes to network adequacy requirements to take into account the competitiveness of a healthcare market, including the presence of certificate of need laws, or other "anticompetitive restrictions."
Additionally, the directive calls for relaxed regulations to allow providers more time with patients and to tailor reimbursement to reflect the amount of time a provider spends with a patient.
The order also calls for the HHS secretary to provide Medicare claims data to health providers to spot practice patterns "that may pose undue risks to patients, and to inform health providers about practice patterns that are outliers or that are outside recommended standards of care."
The news comes as open enrollment nears for MA plans, which are projected to hit a 13-year low for premiums in 2020. About 24 million seniors, or a third of those eligible for Medicare, are expected to enroll in an MA plan in 2020.
It's a popular program among payers and providers, and frequently cited as a great example of a private-public partnership by CMS Administrator Seema Verma.