11:34 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much to Vice President Pence for that wonderful introduction and for the great job you do. And I want thank Secretary Acosta, Secretary Mnuchin, Acting Secretary Hargan, and Administrator McMahon for joining us today. We're all gathered together for something, I believe, that's going to be very, very powerful for our nation and very good for a lot of people.
But before I begin, I have a important update. Yesterday, the United States government, working with the government of Pakistan, secured the release of Caitlan Coleman, Joshua Boyle, and their three children from captivity from the Haqqani Network, a terrorist organization with ties to the Taliban. The Pakistani government's cooperation is a sign that it is honoring America's wish that it do more to provide security in the region.
And I want to thank the Pakistani government. We want to thank Pakistan. They worked very hard on this, and I believe they're starting to respect the United States again. It's very important. I think right now a lot of countries are starting to respect the United States of America once again.
We hope to see this type of cooperation and teamwork in helping secure the release of remaining hostages and in our future joint counterterrorism operations.
So with that, I want to begin by saying it's my pleasure to welcome so many great small business and association leaders to the White House as we prepare to make this truly historic announcement. And that's exactly what it is.
We've been hearing about the disaster of Obamacare for so long -- in my case, many years, most of it outside in civilian life. And for a long period of time since I've started running and since I became President of the United States, I just keep hearing "repeal and replace, repeal and replace." Well, we're starting that process, and we're starting it in a very positive manner.
And I can say, when you get Rand Paul on your side, it has to be positive, that I can tell you. (Laughter.) Boy. (Applause.) I was just saying as he's getting up and saying all these wonderful things about what we're going to be announcing, I said, boy, that's pretty unusual. I'm very impressed. (Laughter.)
But seven years ago, congressional Democrats broke the American healthcare system by forcing the Obamacare nightmare onto the American people. And it has been a nightmare. You look at what's happening with the premiums and the increases of 100 percent and 120 percent, and even in one case, Alaska, over 200 percent. And now, every congressional Democrat has blocked the effort to save Americans from Obamacare, along with a very small, frankly, handful of Republicans -- three. And we're going to take care of that also because I believe we have the votes to do block grants at a little bit later time, and we'll be able to do that.
Premiums have gone skyrocketing. But today, one-third of all the counties in America have only a single insurer selling coverage on an exchange, and next year it looks like nearly half of all counties in our country -- think of that -- all of the counties, one half will have only one insurer. And many will have none. Many will have absolutely created roadblocks for people to have any form of the insurance we're talking about.
is why, in a few moments, I will sign an executive order taking the first steps to providing millions of Americans with Obamacare relief.
It directs the Department of Health and Human Services, the Treasury, and the Department of Labor to take action to increase competition, increase choice, and increase access to lower-priced, high-quality healthcare options. And they will have so many options. This will cost the United States government virtually nothing, and people will have great, great healthcare. And when I say people, I mean by the millions and millions.
we aim to allow more small businesses to form associations to buy affordable and competitive health insurance. This would open up additional options for employers to purchase the health plans their workers want.
I'm also directing Secretary Acosta to consider ways to expand these associations and these healthcare plans all across state lines. This will create tremendous competition and transformative -- in so many ways -- change aimed at creating more and lower prices for millions of Americans.
But the competition will be staggering. Insurance companies will be fighting to get every single person signed up, and you will be hopefully negotiating, negotiating, negotiating, and you'll get such low prices for such great care. Should have been done a long time ago, and it could have been done a long time ago.
This will allow thousands of small business employers to have the same purchasing power as large employers to get more affordable and generous insurance options for their workers. Rich and Leslie Baudry -- where are they? Where are they? How are you? Nice to see you. Come on, get up here. Come on. How are you? Nice to see you, Leslie.
They're here today from Louisiana -- a great state. I just left. They had a little hurricane damage, a little, sort of -- they got hit, Lake Charles. But we took good care of it, right?
MS. BAUDRY: Absolutely.
THE PRESIDENT: We took good care of it. They're great people.
They're small business owners, and they know personally the benefits of association health plans, one of which used to provide health insurance for their employees.
But after Obamacare, they were unable to afford their association plan. So they had a great thing, their employees were happy, and then it ended like so many more. I mean, this is something I hear. Greg, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Greg has been so incredible on this subject. And people had plans that worked, and then all of a sudden they were just totally cut off. And it happened to your company also.
Rich and Leslie have said that they would love, once again, to use an association health plan, and there are millions of Americans who want more affordable options just like them. And now, with this executive order, Americans will likely soon have those options. We will be very happy to provide them to you, and you will be very happy, Rich. I think you're going to be extremely pleased. If you're not, you can tell them right now, okay? (Laughter.)
MS. BAUDRY: Thank you so much.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Leslie. Appreciate it. Great to see you. Thank you very much.
In addition, my administration will explore how we can expand something called short-term limited duration insurance. These health insurance policies are not subject to any very expansive and expensive Obamacare coverage mandates and rules. The cost of the Obamacare has been so outrageous it is absolutely destroying everything in its wake.
They were so attractive that, just last year, the previous administration crippled the market in an effort to keep people from fleeing the failing Obamacare plans. In fact, they prevented these plans from lasting more than three months. They will take action to fix that and to make these affordable, flexible plans much more widely available. So we're going to have a very widely available plan that's going to cost much less. And from the standpoint of the United States government, we will be very happy, won't we, Virginia?
REPRESENTATIVE FOXX: We will, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: So they'll get better and it will cost us nothing. That's not too bad, right? (Laughter.) We need some more answers like that.
Finally, today's executive order instructs Secretaries Acosta, Mnuchin, and Hargan to explore how they can allow more businesses to use tax-free health reimbursement arrangements or HRAs to compensate their employees for their healthcare expenses. Currently, only about one-third of small business employees receive coverage at work, forcing millions of workers to enroll in the exchanges or remain uninsured and to pay the individual mandate penalty. Not good. Not good. That is one of the most unpopular things I've ever seen in government, I can tell you.
This order takes first steps to make it easier for businesses to help their workers afford high-quality and more flexible healthcare through reimbursement accounts. With these actions, we are moving toward lower costs and more options in the healthcare market and taking crucial steps towards saving the American people from the nightmare of Obamacare.
Today is only the beginning. In the coming months, we plan to take new measures to provide our people with even more relief and more freedom. And, by the way, on another subject, that will include massive tax cuts. We are going to get massive tax cuts, and I believe even Senator Rand Paul, and I know Virginia, Greg, I think you're with us. But the whole country is looking for these massive tax cuts, and we will get them.
And we're going to also pressure Congress very strongly to finish the repeal and the replace of Obamacare once and for all. We will have great healthcare in our country.
you all very much. Appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Mr. President, you need to sign it.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh. (Laughter.) I'm only signing it because it costs nothing. (Laughter.)
Well, this is promoting healthcare choice and competition all across the United States. This is going to be something that millions and millions of people will be signing up for, and they're going to be very happy. This will be great healthcare.
So congratulations to everybody. (Applause.)
(The executive order is signed.)
11:46 A.M. EDT