3:35 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. This is very nice. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Happy Birthday, Mr. President! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Happy Birthday, Mr. President!
THE PRESIDENT: Beautiful. Wow.
AUDIENCE: (Sings “Happy Birthday.”) (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Very nice. Wow. That’s — that is very, very nice.
Please. You must like what I’m about to say, I think. (Laughter.) And we all like what we’re about to say. We worked very hard on it.
And thank you all for joining us on this magnificent day in the Rose Garden. A special place. We’re here to announce the latest historic action that we’re taking to help millions of Americans receive high-quality and very affordable healthcare — something so important. And we’ve been working on it long and hard. A certain group, right on these first few rows, they’ve been working very long and very hard. And I want to thank you.
We’re delighted to be joined today by Vice President Mike Pence. Mike, thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you.
In addition, I want to express my gratitude to Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Steve, thank you very much. (Applause.)
Alex Acosta. Secretary. (Applause.) Thank you.
A man who has been working very hard for this day: Secretary Alex Azar. Thank you, Alex. (Applause.)
And also with us are Acting Administrator of the Small Business Administration Chris Pilkerton. And — where’s Chris? Chris? Good. Chris, hi. (Applause.) Congratulations, by the way. Congratulations. You liking it? I hope you’re liking it. Huh? I hear you are.
And Treasurer of the United States Jovita Carranza. Thank you, Jovita. (Applause.) Thank you very much.
And I want to extend a special welcome to the many small business owners who are here. We have a lot of them in the — in our midst. And thank you very much. This is a big advantage for you and something where you can take care a lot of — a lot of great people are going to be taken care of. So, thank you all for being here. Thank you very much.
Small business optimism is soaring in our very booming and big economy. And today, we give you even more reason for your confidence in the future.
Two years ago, in October of 2017, I signed an executive order to increase healthcare choice and competition all across our nation. Since that time, my administration has worked tirelessly to expand options and drive down the cost of healthcare for the American people.
We took swift action to open short-term health plans and association health plans to millions and millions of Americans. Many of these options are already reducing the cost of health insurance premiums by up to 60 percent and, really, more than that.
We also have launched a new initiative to bring down the price of prescription drugs. We are holding Big Pharma accountable. And, I must say, Big Pharma has also been working with us to try and get prices down. And if we had support with the Democrats, I must say, we could get it down even more.
We’ve reduced prices now by a — quite a bit. And this year is the first year, Alex Acosta — right? — in 54 years — 53 years that drugs prices have come down. And I want to congratulate you and all the people that have worked so hard with you. (Applause.) That’s really an incredible thing. First year.
And we could get them down a lot more if we had a little support in Congress. And I think we’ll get that support. I think that has to be — that has to be a joint. If that’s not going to be bilateral, we’re going to get that done, and I think we’re going to get it done quickly. We’re going to get a lot of support. I’ve spoken to Democrats, and they are in support of it. We have to see if we can actually get them to raise their hand. If they do that, we’re going to see some tremendous cuts in drug prices. So thank you very much, Alex.
We’ve asked Congress to support a new research initiative to find a breakthrough cure for childhood cancers. And we’ve begun a public health campaign to eradicate AIDS in America once and for all. And that’s really taking place like nobody would believe. We’re looking at a 10-year plan. And at the end of 10 years, we’re going to be in very good shape. Who would’ve thought that was possible even just a short time ago?
And we’re making dramatic strides in combatting the opioid epidemic. We have it down by a period of almost — a number of almost 17 percent this year. And when I heard it, I thought they made a mistake. I said, “You are not real. That’s not a real number.” And it is very much a real number.
So, Kellyanne and all of the people that have worked on that, that’s a tremendous achievement. And we’ve worked with the medical profession and with doctors and with everybody, and to think that it’s 17 percent in one year — that’s a tremendous achievement. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
And we’re now working with Congress to pass legislation that ends surprise medical billing. And we’re going to have another big announcement in two weeks, unrelated but something that’s going to have a profound effect on the things that we’re talking about and have been talking about over the last two and a half years. It’s going to be something really incredible. That’ll take place over the next two weeks. That’ll be a very big announcement. Nobody knows what it is. It’s going to be a big surprise, but it’s going to be a very pleasant one.
No American should be blindsided by bills for medical services they never agreed to in advance. We’re promoting price transparency to force competition and drive down cost. And that’s what’s happening, and that’s one of the reasons we’re getting the drug prices — stopping from those tremendous increases that have taken effect for so many years. For so many decades, they’ve been going only in one direction: up. And now we have them breaking even and going down.
We’re defending Medicare and Social Security for our great seniors. We’re eliminated — and we have eliminated Obamacare’s deeply unpopular individual mandate penalty. And you know how bad that was. (Applause.) Think of it: You paid a tremendous amount of money for the privilege of paying so that you don’t have to pay for bad insurance. Okay? How bad does that get? That’s got to be a first. Nobody has ever heard of that one. But we eliminated it. It’s gone. So you’re saving a lot of money, and it’s a terrific thing.
And we will always protect patients with preexisting conditions. Always. (Applause.) We’re always going to protect the patients. Preexisting conditions.
And today I’m pleased to announce another groundbreaking action. We are dramatically increasing the ability of Americans to access more affordable health insurance through options and through their employers. We’re doing so by expanding Health Reimbursement Arrangements, or HRAs, as they are commonly known. HRAs will allow American workers to shop for the plan that’s right for them and their family, and have their employer cover the cost. And it’s a reasonable cost, and people are going to be getting tremendous benefits.
This will be possible because HRAs will now receive the same tax treatment that other employer-provided health plans have always enjoyed. There was a lot of restrictions, and it was impossible until now. This is something that its time has come. It’s popular. It’s really, really been a success. And I think this is going to be — for many people, this will be the way of the future.
The previous administration imposed crushing fines and other penalties on HRAs to prevent employees from selecting the plan of their choice. It was impossible. With today’s action, we are eliminating all of those restrictions. And thanks to the changes we’re making, an estimated 11 million Americans will now choose their own plans with the help of the HRAs. This will increase the size — (applause) — thank you. This is a very big deal. This will increase the size of the individual market by at least 50 percent, improving choice, promoting competition, and lowering costs for the American people.
HRAs provide another important option to help even more employers offer great health insurance. And the benefits to the American workers will be incredible. They will be especially useful for small employers: An estimated 90 percent of the businesses that will take advantage of HRAs have fewer than 20 employees.
This announcement is a monumental victory for small businesses, for their workers, and previously uninsured Americans who will now have access to high-quality health plans of their choice.
With us today is one of our nation’s wonderful small business owners:
Tony [Tom] Kunkel from Maryland. And I will say — Tom, you come up. Where is Tom? Are you up here someplace, Tom? I have not met Tom. Oh, you’re a handsome guy. Come on up here. (Laughter.) Tom Kunkel, would you say a few words and let them know what’s just happened to you?
Please. Thank you, Tom. (Applause.) Thank you.
MR. KUNKEL: First of all, I’d like to say “Happy Birthday” to the President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
MR. KUNKEL: Thank you. A lot of people from my office also wanted to say “Happy Birthday.”
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MR. KUNKEL: Three years ago, I actually spoke to the U.S. Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee about reinstating the Health Reimbursement Benefit Program that had existed previously. This was after the Obama administration had made it illegal for our business to help employees with their health insurance costs.
At the time, we had been helping our employees, some who had very serious medical conditions, including cancer. And after the Obama ruling we had to stop all reimbursements, and –which caused a great bit of hardship for our employees. And several of them I actually ended up losing because they had to leave us and go to other companies that offered a little better health benefits.
So I want to thank the President and the administration for supporting this new measure and all of his pro-small-business policies. We very much appreciate it in the small-business community.
So this new rule really allows small businesses to offer a benefit to our employees that will help our employees with healthcare costs, provide more and better options for them and also for employers.
So, again, thank you very much, Mr. President. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Also, we’re joined right now — Andrea Burns, a small business owner from Pennsylvania. Please come up. Andrea, please. (Applause.)
MS. BURNS: Hello.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. How are you doing? Nice to see you.
MS. BURNS: Happy birthday
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
MS. BURNS: Nice to see you.
THE PRESIDENT: Have a good time.
MS. BURNS: Hello, my name is Andrea Burns, and I’m a director at Richard S. Burns and Company, a family-owned and operated construction waste material recovery and processing facility in Philadelphia. We employ approximately 100 people.
And, right now, my brother and I — Allen — choose the healthcare plan for all of those employees. They don’t have the opportunity to choose the provider, the coverage, or the premium. This plan — HRAs — would allow us to give them the opportunity to choose the plan that’s best for them. Thank you. Thank you for making (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, darling. Use it well. Use it well, Andrea. That’s — you will. Thank you very much.
And it’s going to be a great — it’ll be a great difference. I’ve repeatedly called on Congress to work with us to bring down the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs. It’s all happening.
Instead, more than 120 Democrats in Congress have signed up for the Bernie Sanders massive government takeover of healthcare. That’s going to hurt a lot of people. It’s going to hurt our country. Socialist healthcare would crush American workers with higher taxes, long wait times, and far worse care. Their plan would eliminate Medicare as we know it and terminate the private health insurance of 180 million Americans and even more than that now.
On my watch, we will never let that happen. We will never be a socialist country. (Applause.)
We have to reject the socialist model that rations care, restricts access, slashes quality, and forces patients onto endless waitlists. Instead, we believe in freedom. We believe in choice. We believe in the highest standard of care in the world — anywhere in the world.
And we believe that American families must always have the right and the power to choose the very best treatments, plans, doctors for themselves and for their loved ones. They need that freedom. They have to have that freedom. And that’s exactly what today’s action is all about. We are putting the people back in charge with more choice, for better care, at a far lower cost.
And other people will not be paying for their healthcare. We won’t be raising taxes. We won’t be taxing you into oblivion. We won’t be raising the tax rates to 90 percent. I’ve heard 90 percent. The only problem with that one: It doesn’t even come close to taking care of the situation. So that means you have to go a lot higher than 90 percent. I don’t think that’s going to work too well in this country. We’ve lowered taxes. We want to keep them down. That’s very important. (Applause.)
And we will not rest until Americans have the healthcare system they need and deserve, a system that finally puts American patients first.
I want to thank everybody for being here. It’s a very important day, a very special day. God bless you, and God Bless America.
Thank you all very much. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you everybody.
END 3:52 P.M. EDT