THE VILLAGES, Fla. – Republicans at Central Florida's The Villages, a mega retirement community north of Orlando, welcomed President Donald Trump Thursday with cheer, as he stood in front of a "Great Healthcare For You" sign.
Trump said he was back to fulfill his 2016 promise to seniors that he would strengthen Medicare. He reminded the crowd about his legal fight to overturn the Affordable Care Act, better known as "Obamacare."
Trump also reiterated his endorsement of Gov. Ron DeSantis' plan to reduce the cost of prescription drugs by allowing consumers to access medications from other countries. Trump also criticized Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' "Medicare for All" proposal, a "single-payer" program.
"Medicare is under threat like never before," Trump said, adding that the United States will never be a socialist country.
Trump chose the retirement community of about 120,000 retirees as the place to announce an executive order allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to expand Medicare Advantage, the private insurance option under Medicare.
In 2016, about 68% of voters in Sumter County supported Trump. To avoid detractors, the White House selected the 1,000 guests of the event. Sid Bowdidge and Kimberly Foreman were in the list.
"There are so many Trump supporters around here," said Bowdidge, a veteran campaigner. "People just absolutely love him for what he is doing."
Foreman, a The Villages resident, agrees with Bowdidge, the director of The Villagers for Trump, a "club" boasting more than 1,500 members.
"We are crazy. We dress up and buy MAGA tennis shoes that I wear," Foreman said outside of the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center, where about 1,000 Trump supporters gathered. "It's just a lot of fun."
Trump said wait times for patients in the U.S. are far shorter than in Canada and the United Kingdom, both countries with publicly funded health care system. He added that what socialism has done to healthcare in Venezuela is a tragedy.
Trump promised Republicans "will always" protect patients with pre-existing conditions, and he said Medicare Advantage patients will experience less waiting times. Trump said he is increasing price and quality transparency.
"We will deliver the affordability that you need, prices coming down," Trump said.
Medicare Advantage offers coverage of prescription drugs, dental and vision and it doesn't require "Medigap," which is separate supplemental private insurance. Critics of the plan have said the Trump administration is prioritizing private insurance companies' interests.
The Villages resident Rock Raiford disagrees.
"I think President Trump is looking out for the seniors," Raiford said. "We are part of that group, and we appreciate him doing that."
Trump's attack on the Democrats' efforts to improve access to healthcare amid the Democrats' impeachment inquiry, and after publicly requesting that Ukraine and China investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump has support in Florida, the largest swing state in the 2020 election with 29 electoral votes that are crucial for the president's reelection.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was also in Florida Thursday. She attended events with Venezuelan activists in Weston and Haitian migrants in Miami's Little Haiti.