Anticipation and excitement were the name of the game Wednesday as Villagers mightily tried to learn more about President Trump’s planned visit to the community next week.
Details were quite scarce and those in the know – which appeared to be a very small group – were tight-lipped about the Tuesday, Aug. 6 gathering. It’s believed that the event will be a small, invitation-only event where Trump will discuss Medicare – a subject near and dear to most Villagers.
As speculation about the event ran rampant on Wednesday, some Republican leaders were told it would be small affair with very limited seating. Others wondered where the event might be held, with venues like the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center, the Savannah Center, the secured Morse family compound off County Road 466 and the patriotic-themed Eisenhower Recreation Center topping the list.
An inquiry sent to the White House seeking more information about the visit went unanswered Wednesday. But a White House spokesman has confirmed that Medicare will be the topic at the secretive gathering.
Trump, who met with Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battulga on Wednesday and accepted a gift of a horse named “Victory” for his son Barron, has proposed changes to Medicare in his latest budget that are being viewed as drastic cuts – to the tune of more than $845 billion over the next 10 years. But an official in the Office of Management and Budget has repeatedly claimed that the president isn’t cutting Medicare but instead is axing waste and abuse and pushing reforms that lower drug costs – an area where the government agency spends a great deal of money.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was endorsed by Trump in 2016, paid a recent visit to The Villages to sign a bill that could allow Floridians to save money by getting prescription drugs from Canada. That plan, which must be approved by the federal government, has drawn praise from the president and seems to flow along with his efforts to cut Medicare drug costs.
Some in The Villages have wondered if Tuesday’s event will be connected with The Villages Health, an initiative that became a reality in late 2012 thanks to late Villages Developer H. Gary Morse. Like his father, Villages Founder Harold Schwartz, who pushed for a hospital to be built in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown, Morse made it a point to focus on excellent health care that would be available to residents in their own community, thereby eliminating the need to travel outside The Villages for medical reasons.
The Villages Health, which prioritizes primary care and preventive medicine practiced at care centers scattered across the community, was built around the use of Medicare Advantage, which also stresses preventive care and pays doctors to keep patients healthy rather than just treating them when they are sick.
The Villages Health exclusively accepts Medicare Advantage plans provided by UnitedHealthcare – the Morse-family-owned healthcare provider kicked out a large group of patients in 2016 who had original Medicare with a supplemental insurance – so it would make sense for Trump to be seen on the campaign trail with a group of doctors in white coats who believe in saving the government and patients money through the use of a Medicare program.
The Villages Health also is building the Advanced Center for Healthcare at Brownwood, which is located off State Road 44 alongside the Brownwood Hotel & Spa. The facility, which will largely house Villages Health specialists and physicians and medical staff from several other providers, is moving along quickly and is scheduled to open in 2020. Currently, it is a fenced-in construction site that has some residents speculating that it might be a nice backdrop for the president’s visit to the community.
Making is first stop in the community – he will become second sitting president to visit Florida’s Friendliest Hometown followed by a campaigning George W. Bush in 2004 – also makes sense because Trump is backed by many of the largely conservative retirees who live in the massive retirement community That was proven in the 2016 presidential election when he carried 68 percent of the votes in Sumter County.
The president also enjoys huge support from Villagers for Trump, a grassroots organization that that boasts more than 1,700 members and clearly has become the choice among active Republicans in the community.
The group’s vice president, Jim Volpe, met with the president this past November at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach and showed him the program from the organization’s Trump Day Dinner in October 2018.
And the group, which happens to be meeting on the same day Trump is supposed to be in The Villages, currently is selling bottled Trump 2020 water and constantly holds flag-waving events and golf cart parades to show their support for the president.