President Trump clearly had his Democratic rivals in the crosshairs on Thursday afternoon as he vowed to strengthen and protect Medicare during a visit to The Villages.
In what was billed as an official White House event but oftentimes sounded more like a campaign speech, the president referred to some of his Democratic rivals as “maniacs” and then signed an executive order designed to protect Medicare while also cutting waste from the program.
“As long as I’m president, no one will lay a hand on your Medicare benefits,” he said.
Trump spoke to a full-house, invitation-only crowd at the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center after arriving at The Villages Polo Fields via helicopter. He had flown into Ocala International Airport aboard Air Force One and eventually arrived at The Sharon via a motorcade.
“This is a special place,” he said of the mega-retirement community. “But we could have had 25,000 people if we did it outside,” he added to a resounding roar from the crowd, which largely comprised a who’s who of The Villages. The crowd also included a great many people who were recommended to attend by the Developer, who originally supported former Gov. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in the 2016 GOP presidential campaign.
Trump was joined onstage by a bevy of officials that included Gov. Ron DeSantis and his wife, Casey. He frequently lavished praise on the governor and said he’ll soon be able to move forward with a bill he signed at the Eisenhower Recreation Center in June that will allow Floridians to save money on prescription drug costs.
“In a little while, your governor is going to be able to go out and negotiate until his heart is content,” he said, adding that DeSantis will be traveling to Canada and Europe to find lower drug prices for Villagers and all Floridians. “I have feeling when that happens, the drug companies will drop their prices.”
Trump also addressed the importance of strong Medicare Advantage plans, which rely on private insurers to provide benefits to seniors – oftentimes with zero-monthly premiums – that go above and beyond regular fee-for-service Medicare and doesn’t involve the heavy costs associated with Supplemental plans.
“It allows private plans to compete to offer coverage,” he said. “There are nearly 1,200 more Medicare Advantage plans today than there were two years ago – and premiums have plummeted by 28 percent.”
The Villages was particularly fitting for Trump’s Medicare announcement because of the 125,000-plus seniors who live here and the fact that The Villages Health, which is owned by the Developer of the mega-retirement community, is predicated on Medicare Advantage plans administered by UnitedHealthcare and beginning Jan. 1, Florida Blue.
Trump said the executive order will accomplish several goals, including providing Medicare Advantage plans with more benefits and solutions, along with reductions in unnecessary regulations. And he vowed that doctors and nurses will be able to spend less time on paperwork and more time with their patients.
“We are going to defend Medicare like it’s never been defended before,” he said. “You deserve more days with your grandkids and the freedom to enjoy the most rewarding years of your life. You’ve worked hard and you’ve paid for it.”
Trump vowed to continue to battle the opioid crisis, with plans for pain medications in the future that aren’t addicting. And he said efforts will continue to strengthen and clean up Veterans Affairs so that quality healthcare is provided to military veterans.
“These great heroes are tough people,” he said of the veterans who rely on the VA for health care. “In their super-prime, nobody touched then. But they are more vulnerable now.”
Trump also addressed the impeachment “crap” he’s facing over accusations from a whistleblower that he pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company.
“They know they can’t beat us fairly,” he said. “It will be a sad day if they ever win.”
Trump also referred to the 2016 election as perhaps the most important in the history of the United States.
“We were ready to go over the edge,” he said, referring to what might have happened if Hillary Clinton had been elected as president.
The president then took shots at Democratic rivals Elizabeth Warren and Biden when looking ahead to the 2020 election.
“The last administration was moderate compared to the maniacs you are hearing from today,” he said. “Elizabeth ‘Pocahontas’ Warren. And I don’t see ‘Sleepy Joe’ making it. We believe in freedom and liberty and standing in solidary with our nation’s seniors. This nation will never be socialist country.”
Villagers for Trump Founder David Gee said he was highly impressed with the fact that the president spoke for about an hour and offered statistics and other facts without using any notes.
“That just blew me away,” Gee said. “The level of energy, the enthusiasm and to just be able to watch this man speak from the heart from the time he stepped on stage all the way through and deliver a message of encouragement, it exceeded my expectations.”
Fruitland Park Mayor Chris Cheshire, who attended the event with his wife, Meredith, called Trump’s visit to the community historic.
“How often do you get to see a sitting president in person,” said Cheshire, who along with his wife owns Mulberry Integrative Medicine and Faeve Plant Therapies in The Villages. “And then seeing how he’s going to help the citizens of The Villages and the citizens of the country that are on Medicare, hopefully this is something that will benefit those people.”
Sid Bowdidge, who serves as executive director of Villagers for Trump, agreed.
“Everybody is excited to see the president and hear his new Medicare plan,” Bowdidge said shortly before Trump arrived at The Sharon. “People are coming out in droves and we’re having a great time.”
Villagers for Trump Vice President Diana Hammond said the grassroots club that formed a little more than a year ago and clearly has become the choice of area Republicans looking to get involved in GOP politics benefited greatly from Trump’s visit.
“We have had a significant influx of new members signing up,” she said of the club, which now has more than 2,100 members on the roster. “It has been a powerful, powerful response. So, this is exciting for us.”