Trump to sign Medicare executive order as Democrats squabble over health care

President Trump is preparing to sign an executive order next week on Medicare and allowing cheaper drug imports from Canada, according to a Wall Street Journal report — part of a broader plan to roll out a measure every few weeks in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.

The executive order would strengthen Medicare for 44 million Americans, with Democratic presidential candidates look to expand it nationwide under Medicare for All proposals, the Journal reported.

It’s unclear whether the White House has the legal capability to expand these policies without Congress’ approval.

Trump’s re-election strategy when it comes to health care is to portray progressive Democrats — including Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass — who support Medicare for All as socialists, while positioning himself as the person who can drive down costs, even as his administration wages a legal battle against the Obama-era Affordable Care Act.

Earlier in the week, the White House proposed a new rule that would require hospitals to publicly disclose the discounted prices they offer to insurance companies — a change intended to increase price transparency for patients shopping for care. However, the proposal is expected to face a backlash from both hospitals and insurers, who have fiercely guarded the prices that reflect what insurers and patients pay for common services.

The Journal, citing two people familiar with the executive order, reported that Trump might call for agency action to support Medicare Advantage plans, which private insurers offer under contract with Medicare. They cover about 22 million Americans.

He’s also expected to push for changes that could lower the price of patient visits to hospital outpatient visits, which can cost more than visits to clinics operated by doctors.

Trump’s plan comes in the midst of a growing schism between moderate Democrats who want to keep private insurance, and progressives who want to roll it under the arm of the government. Health care dominated both Democratic debates this week, as the party remained divided over the best path forward — and how much that path could cost.

"This is the single most important issue facing the public," former Vice President Joe Biden -- the frontrunner -- said during Wednesday’s debate. "To be very blunt...You can't beat President Trump with double talk on this plan."