Cabinet Room Washington D.C. June 15 2:40 P.M. EDT
Okay, thank you very much. Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and we're here to discuss our ironclad commitment to protecting and caring for America's seniors.
We're joined by Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson — who, by the way, was fantastic over the weekend in various interviews you did, Ben. Really good job, I appreciate it. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie, Administrator Seema Verma, Chief Postal Inspector of the United States Postal Inspection Service Gary Barksdale. And Gary has done a great job, especially with spotting drugs coming into our country. He's done a fantastic job.
My administration is working tirelessly to stop the depraved criminals who seek to defraud American seniors, of which there are many. But we are doing a very strong number on a lot of them, and nobody has ever done what we've done.
Three months ago, we launched the National Elder Fraud Hotline, which has already received over 1,800 calls. In three years, we've charged nearly 1,000 defendants involving over $2.2 billion in fraud against our seniors.
This afternoon, the DOJ is announcing a 2-million-dollar grant to help new law enforcement identify victims and bring law breakers to justice.
These actions are just one part of our unwavering devotion to our senior citizens.
Last month, I announced the deal to slash out-of-pocket costs — you have the out-of-pocket costs of insulin, and insulin is such a big deal and such a big factor of importance for our senior citizens. And we slashed costs for hundreds of thousands of Medicare beneficiaries. Impacted seniors will pay just $35 a month — an average saving of 66 to 100 percent. It was the biggest slashing of insulin. Nobody has ever done it before, and we think we can even go further. We're working on one — you call it a "trap," because you have a lot of different traps that get put in your way so that you can't do these things, but we did it. And we think we're even going to be able to go further. So we have $35 a month.
We vastly expanded Medicare telehealth services. That's gone up probably more than any other thing. That's the only thing — it's probably the only thing you can say about COVID: Because of COVID, telehealth has been used at levels that nobody ever thought even possible. And it's been fantastic. And I think a lot of people are going to continue to use it.
Average basic Part D premiums have dropped 13.5 percent, and average Medicare Advantage premiums have dropped 27 percent. And, as you know, last year was the first year where drug prices, in 52 years — where drug prices have actually gone down, the cost of prescription drugs.
We're strongly defending Medicare and Social Security, and we always will. We'll always protect our senior citizens and everybody against preexisting conditions.
My administration is also taking vital action to protect seniors in nursing homes. We delivered $81 million for increased inspections and provided every Medicare-certified nursing home with shipments of personal protective equipment.
We are working very, very hard with the governors of the states on their nursing homes because, obviously, that was a very sad situation what happened to some of the states where they didn't do a good job with respect to nursing homes. They were caught unaware. They were caught unaware, unfortunately. So we're working very hard with the governors and with everybody, having to do with nursing homes, because that's a vulnerability; it's a real soft spot, in terms of the COVID or any one of the 15 names you want to call it. There are plenty of them out there. All we know is it came from China. That's all we know.
We now require nursing homes to report the coronavirus cases directly to CDC — residents and family members. All family members. We're working with extreme vigilance to protect nursing home residents from the virus. And as I said, that's been a very important thing for us to be doing. Everybody — working with the governors on that.
My administration will never waver in our relentless commitment to keep America's seniors safe. We have to keep all of our seniors safe. And this is a very perilous time, and I think we're going to be finishing up. I think we're going to — Mike has some very good numbers to tell you about, having to do with the cases.
Again, our testing is so far advanced. It's so much bigger and better than any other country, that we're going to have more cases. We're always going to have more cases. And as I said this morning, that's probably the downside of having good testing is you find a lot of cases that other countries, who don't even test, don't have. If you don't test, you don't have any cases. If we stopped testing right now, we'd have very few cases, if any.
But we do: We're at a level that — Mike is going to talk about — that's so high. But we will show more — more cases when other countries have far more cases than we do; they just don't talk about it. But the testing, on the other hand, is very good because we find out where it's going, how it's going, who it's going to, and we take care of it.
So with that, I'll just say that we are fighting for America's seniors like no administration has ever fought. We're doing a great job in bringing down costs. We have other things like transparency that are going to be coming online in January, February, which will be an incredible thing. Nobody thought we could even get that approved, but we think we will see numbers there that will be incredible, in terms of cost reduction for our seniors. So that's very good.
And, Mike Pence, if you would, please.
THE VICE PRESIDENT:
Thank you, Mr. President. And it's a privilege to sit with you and be able to reflect on this day, on the efforts this administration has made over the last three and a half years to protect our seniors, to make sure they're financially secure, and also see to the health and wellbeing of our senior citizens.
From the time you tapped me to lead the White House Coronavirus Task Force, we knew that seniors with serious underlying health conditions represented the most vulnerable to serious outcomes from coronavirus. It was the reason why, early on, at your direction, Mr. President, we raised the infectious disease standards at every nursing home in America. We deployed all 8,000 of our inspectors across the country to focus exclusively on infectious diseases.
And, in addition to all the measures that you just reflected on — delivering personal protective equipment to the more than 15,000 nursing homes, dramatically expanding telehealth — we have continued to work closely with governors to focus on long-term care in nursing homes and our seniors.
People across the country have looked after family members or senior citizens with vulnerable conditions, and we urge them to continue to do that, even as we have made steady progress each and every day toward putting the coronavirus farther and farther in the past.
Mr. President, there's been — there's been much reported in the news, as you reflected, about increased cases in some states. Our team has been working with governors over the past week. We're carefully analyzing those new cases, and we really believe that the vast majority of new cases is a reflection, as you said, of a dramatic increase in testing.
Governor Newsom, in California, told me that, on Saturday alone, California performed 78,000 tests all across the state. And yet, in the state of California, their hospitalization numbers remain flat, their positivity numbers remain flat. And in those areas where — just a few states — where we're seeing positive rates go up, we'll be talking to governors today, in states like Georgia and Arizona and Texas, about deploying additional CDC personnel to help them identify where those outbreaks are occurring and how we can mitigate those efforts.
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