Oct. 3 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump traveled to a large retirement community in central Florida Thursday to unveil plans for improving and upgrading the national Medicare system.
Trump visited The Villages, Fla., about 50 miles northwest of Orlando, and outlined a proposal to strengthen and defend Medicare. The president said his plan upgrades coverage for seniors and disabled Americans and provides more healthcare choices.
During the visit, Trump signed an executive order titled "Protecting Medicare from Socialist Destruction."
Trump administration officials told reporters in a conference call Thursday the order will contrast with proposals from Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren that call for taxpayer-subsidized "Medicare For All." Trump said the Democrats' plans would "raid Medicare to fund socialism" and "totally obliterate" the system.
"It's under siege, but it's not going to happen," he said. "We are making your Medicare even better and ... we're not letting it be taken away from you."
The president joked to supporters that he would like join them in retirement, but doesn't trust anyone else to be commander in-chief.
"As long as I'm president, no one will lay hand on your Medicare benefits."
Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verna told reporters earlier Thursday Trump is "deeply concerned" about the Democratic plans, and called them "impractical," "morally wrong" and a "fanciful pipe dream."
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar noted that Trump's order will create an affordable, patient-centric system that puts patients in control of their care. He added that Medicare has "never been better."
Domestic Policy Council Director Joe Grogan told reporters the order is focused on eliminating waste, fraud and abuse from the healthcare system while simultaneously protecting seniors who deserve "great respect." He also said the administration is focused the national opioid crisis and other health challenges, like AIDS and kidney health.
Other changes under Trump's plan would allow nurses to practice to the full extent of their license without the required supervision that often prolongs visits and makes them more costly.
The order calls, in part, for greater Medicare privatization through an expansion of Medicare Advantage plans administered by private insurers. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has said it will allow the plans to include new supplemental benefits if they aim to maintain or improve patients' general well-being.
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said last month Trump's plan will also overhaul Medicaid to enable workers to more easily buy insurance as an alternative to employer-provided coverage.
"Trump's spent his first term trying to repeal protections for pre-existing conditions -- & he's promised to slash funding for Medicare, Medicaid & Social Security in his second term," Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke tweeted. "Don't fall for this stunt. He wants fewer people to have healthcare; we want all Americans covered."
Thursday's visit to Florida was originally scheduled for August but was postponed by deadly shooting attacks in Texas and Ohio.