President Donald Trump used a rare newspaper column on Wednesday to attack Democrats’ health care proposals, accusing them of pursuing Venezuela-style socialism and laying the groundwork for one of the major policy battles in next month’s midterm elections.
“The truth is that the centrist Democratic Party is dead,” he wrote. “The new Democrats are radical socialists who want to model America’s economy after Venezuela.”
The liberal wing of the Democratic Party has won a number of key primaries in the run-up to the November 6 elections, allowing Mr Trump to paint his opponents as extremists.
In the op-ed piece published in USA Today, he focused on proposals to expand Medicare – the national health insurance programme for Americans over the age of 65 – to the rest of the population.
“The Democrats’ plan means that after a life of hard work and sacrifice, seniors would no longer be able to depend on the benefits they were promised,” he claimed.
Administration officials said the attack would be followed-up by other party figures during the midterm campaign.
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Their concerns focus on a proposal known as “Medicare for All”, promoted by Bernie Sanders, the Leftist who challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2016, which would introduce a single-payer system to cover almost everyone in the country.
It was once backed only by fringe candidates but has in the past year become a rallying cry for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
Such a proposal might be non-controversial in Europe, but raises worries about rationing and lack of choice among many Americans.
“By eliminating Medicare as a programme for seniors, and outlawing the ability of Americans to enroll in private and employer-based plans, the Democratic plan would inevitably lead to the massive rationing of health care,” writes Mr Trump. “Doctors and hospitals would be put out of business.”
However, Democrats and health policy analysts said the president had little evidence to support his claims.
Tricia Neuman, who studies Medicare at the Kaiser Family Foundation non-profit organisation, said: “President Trump and others have recently said Medicare For All will ‘hurt’ seniors and Medicare itself. If true, that would be a serious concern for seniors, but it’s not clear how that would happen.”
Mr Trump also linked the proposal with another hot button issue, accusing Democrats of planning to open American borders.
“That means millions more would cross our borders illegally and take advantage of health care paid for by American taxpayers,” he said, claiming the result would be rocketing taxes and the destruction of American prosperity.
Next month’s midterms are billed as a referendum on Mr Trump’s presidency.
Democrats appear on course to take control of the House of Representatives but the bitter battle over the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice has energised Mr Trump’s base, according to the latest polls.