Remarks by the Vice President at the National Governors Association
Rhode Island Convention Center Providence, Rhode Island
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all. It is wonderful to be here.
To Prime Minister Trudeau, Governor McAuliffe — thank you for that warm introduction and that warm welcome — to Governor Sandoval, to all the Governors of these United States, especially our host, to Gina Raimondo, to all the distinguished guests who are here with us today — it is an honor to be back in Rhode Island at the 109th annual Summer Meeting of the National Governors Association. (Applause.)
And I bring greetings today from my friend, a champion of federalism who is fighting every single day to restore power to the states and to the people, the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
The President is actually returning as we speak from France, where he celebrated America’s first and oldest alliance with great pageantry and a productive meeting. I spoke to the President aboard Air Force One this morning, and he asked me to convey his thanks to all of you for your service to your states and to give you his best regards. And our President sent me and several members of our Cabinet here to reaffirm our administration’s commitment to partner with each and every one of you to advance the security and prosperity of all of the American people and all of the states across this country. (Applause.)
For me, it’s great to be back at the NGA. I’m, frankly, very humbled — very humbled to be with so many of the leaders I had the privilege to serve with when I was governor of the state of Indiana. It’s amazing for me to think — my wife and I reflected on it this morning — that it was one year ago this weekend that the phone call came, and my life changed. I reflected this morning on that ancient verse that I often thought about in those days: Who am I, oh Lord, and who is my family that you brought me this far.
So let me just take this personal opportunity to say thank you to all of you. Thank you for your friendship, your encouragement, and the prayers that have enabled us to serve in this new capacity. It is great to be back with America’s governors. (Applause.)
I’m here as your Vice President, but I want you to know that I bring the perspective of a former governor, to your discussions this weekend. When I was a governor, I’d often come to Washington, D.C. representing my state’s interest, and my greatest hope was that I’d have an administration that would listen to me and work with me to improve the lives of the hardworking people of Indiana. Well let me give you this promise: Every governor in America has all that and more in President Donald Trump.
You heard it from the President himself when he addressed the NGA at the White House during your winter meeting earlier this year. As the President said, “Under my administration, we’re going to have a true partnership of collaboration and cooperation with the states.” And he meant every word of it.
Since day one of our administration, President Trump has been delivering on this promise. In the past six months, President Trump has met with governors from no fewer than 47 states, individually, and five territories — including all of you that are gathered here today. In June alone, President Trump welcomed 19 governors to the White House, and he met with three more on the road. President Trump has involved you in our policy discussions, and let me assure you, this President values your continued input on issues ranging from infrastructure to energy to tax cuts to healthcare and so much more.
And if you haven’t noticed, this President likes to hire governors. (Laughter.) Not just present company, but I’m talking about our United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley; Secretary of Energy Rick Perry; our Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue; and the new United States Ambassador to China, who was the longest-serving Governor in American history, Ambassador Terry Branstad. Let’s give all these former governors a round of applause. (Applause.)
It really has been a privilege for me to continue to work so closely with all of you on the President’s behalf. In February, Karen and I enjoyed welcoming many of you to the Vice President’s Residence in Washington, D.C. — the first time all of America’s governors, I was told, have ever been invited to the Naval Observatory, and we were honored that so many came.
Now my wife couldn’t be with us today. She’s picking our daughter up from the airport — been doing some foreign travel. But let me personally extend the President’s and our family’s heartfelt appreciation to the most important people in the room today: the spouses and family members of those who serve as governors across this nation. Could you give a round of applause to our spouses and family members that support the leadership of these great leaders? (Applause.)
The truth is, America’s governors have a friend in President Donald Trump, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat. And this President’s agenda will strengthen every state across this country. I like to say that our President has a three-part agenda: Jobs, jobs, and jobs. And to be around him for any period of time, you know he’s focused on prosperity in this country, as more than anything else other than security.
The President has taken decisive action from the outset of this administration to put America back to work and get our economy moving again. This President has signed more laws slashing job-killing red tape out of Washington, D.C. than any President in American history. It’s already saved businesses and individuals up to $18 billion a year in regulatory cost.
And our President has been busy unleashing American energy. He’s opening the way for more offshore drilling, rolling back the Clean Power Plan, and the President has approved the Keystone and Dakota pipelines to strengthen the energy infrastructure of this nation. And speaking of infrastructure, President Trump has already begun the process of rebuilding American infrastructure. And in partnership with governors like you, I promise you, before this session of Congress is out, we’re going to pass an infrastructure bill that will rebuild America, and we’re going to work with each and every one of you to bring that about. (Applause.)
This President has also taken decisive action to ensure that America’s trade deals are both free and fair. Thanks to the President’s leadership, last month American companies were able to ship American beef to China for the first time in over 13 years.
The President has also opened up a new economic dialogue he asked me to lead with the nation of Japan, to strengthen our trade relationship with our valued ally.
And in the coming weeks, President Trump, and our nation will renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. And under this President’s leadership, we will modernize NAFTA for the 21st century so it is a win-win-win for all of our trading partners in North America. (Applause.)
Now I know you’ll be hearing from Prime Minister Trudeau in just a few minutes. And let me assure you the United States and Canada have already built a remarkably strong relationship under these two leaders, and the investment relationship that we enjoy today is worth more than $620 billion a year. And we’re grateful for the Prime Minister’s leadership and his early outreach to this administration. President Trump recognized that every trade relationship can improve, and as the Prime Minister knows, we’re looking forward to bringing NAFTA into the future in a way that will equally benefit both our countries.
The truth is, President Trump’s leadership is already making a difference, and I know you see it in your states every single day. Under this President’s watch, businesses large and small have already created more than 800,000 new private sector jobs since the first of this year. Company after company are making record investments in state after state — billions of dollars, tens of thousands of jobs. And the stock market is soaring, closing at record highs again this week.
And with the continued input of America’s governors, President Trump is going to work with this Congress to drive forward an agenda for a more prosperous America of lower taxes, less regulation, more American energy, better infrastructure, better trade deals and yes, President Donald Trump is going to lead this Congress to rescue the American people from the collapsing policies of Obamacare. (Applause.)
As a former governor myself, I know just how important healthcare is to each and every one of you as you lead your states. The simple truth, though, is Obamacare is imploding all across America, and working families and small businesses are paying the price every day. Our administration has found that the average premium on the individual market has more than doubled since Obamacare went into effect less than four years ago, and in many states, including some represented here, it’s more than tripled.
When Obamacare passed, we were promised that families would save up to $2,500 in premiums, but the average Obamacare plan today costs nearly $3,000 more than the average plan did in 2013. And while costs are skyrocketing, choices are plummeting.
On Monday, our administration announced that 38 percent fewer health insurers plan on participating in Obamacare exchanges next year, and the number could rise, leaving millions of Americans with even fewer choices. And come next year, 40 percent of American counties, including nine whole states, will have only one choice in a health insurance provider, meaning they essentially have no choice at all. Even worse, dozens of counties will have no health insurance providers whatsoever on the Obamacare exchange in 2018.
I know you know these facts, because as governors you’re living that reality, not far afield in Washington, D.C. looking at statistics, but you’re seeing the impact of these failed policies each and every day in communities and enterprises across your state. I don’t have to tell any of the governors gathered around here, whatever your politics, whatever your party, you know we’re talking about real people and you know we’re talking about a real crisis. Because behind every number is a name, and behind every name is a story.
Since early this year, the President has had me traveling across the country to many of your states, and I’ve always made a point to sit down with your local citizens and local businesses to hear the story about the hardship that Obamacare has placed in your communities. I’ve heard stories from small-business owners, working families, and parents with disabled children who have suffered terribly under the collapsing weight of this policy. People like Julie Roberts, who I met with earlier this week in Lexington, Kentucky. At her small business, premiums have spiked 25 percent every year under Obamacare and deductibles have tripled.
Then there’s Connie Mays, who has lived in the same small town in Ohio her entire life. She has a disability she told me about. It’s made her life tough, but she’s found her way forward. But when Obamacare became law, she told me that she lost her health insurance plan, she lost her doctor, and today no healthcare provider in her county will take her Obamacare coverage. So she essentially has no coverage at all. She literally had tears in her eyes sitting next to me at the White House when she told me the story that that card in her pocketbook was essentially meaningless because no one in her home county would take it.
There’s Julie Champine from Wisconsin, who I met when I was visiting Governor Walker, whose health insurance costs increased so much that last year she told me with genuine emotion in her voice that she had to choose between paying for her Obamacare coverage and buying Christmas presents for her grandkids. She literally took that preemptive three months where she could skip making her payments and skip coverage just so she could afford to buy some Christmas presents for her kids and grandkids.
I don’t have to tell all of you. I mean, these stories are not rare, but they’re all heartbreaking. They’re not the exception, they’re the rule. But as I told each and every one of those that I mentioned and people all across this country: Help is on the way. We’re going to give the American people access to the kind of world-class healthcare every American deserves. (Applause.)
I’m pleased to report, as you already know, just yesterday Senate leadership unveiled a new version of the Senate healthcare bill, and President Trump and I urge every member of the Senate to support it. President Trump and I believe the Senate healthcare bill is the right bill at the right time to begin the end of Obamacare and rescue the American people from this failed policy. And we look forward to the Senate taking up this bill as early as next week.
Now, President Trump laid out his vision for American healthcare months ago. The President said he wanted a healthcare system that in his words is “far less expensive and far better.” And we believe the Senate healthcare bill begins to make the President’s vision a reality.
The bill introduced in the Senate puts America back on the path to better, more affordable healthcare for every American. The Senate healthcare bill repeals Obamacare’s individual and business mandates, and cuts taxes on American families and American businesses, restoring freedom and it will create jobs.
The Senate healthcare bill doubles the contribution limits for health savings accounts. And for the first time ever, it allows health savings accounts to cover insurance premiums. The bill also offers tax credits to help Americans buy the coverage they want at a price they can afford. And the legislation ensures that every American with preexisting conditions has access to the coverage and care they need — no exceptions. (Applause.)
And if you take nothing else from what I say today, know that the Senate healthcare bill gives states the freedom to redesign your health insurance markets. And, most significantly, under this legislation, states across the country will have an unprecedented level of flexibility to reform Medicaid and bring better coverage, better care, and better outcomes to the most vulnerable in your states.
Now, I’m not speaking so much right now as your Vice President, but let me speak to you as a former governor and as someone who Terry McAuliffe pointed out — I made the decision in Indiana to expand Medicaid under a waiver. I mean, you all know your states, you know your people. You know how to create the innovative solutions to address the unique healthcare needs of the people of your states. And I had that very same attitude when I was a governor.
But most of you also know that, under previous administrations — frankly, in both political parties — it’s been difficult, if not at times impossible, for states to act on your own ideas. I actually learned that firsthand.
Right after I was elected governor, in early 2013, I went straight to work developing a serious Medicaid reform plan that would put vulnerable and low-income Hoosiers more in charge of their own healthcare decisions that would expand access to healthcare providers across the state.
Working with a remarkably talented woman whom I’m proud to say is now the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, we created a plan based on consumer-directed healthcare. Indiana at the time, as some of you know, was home to a small pilot project that had promising results in that area. And we believed that we could expand coverage in the state the Indiana way, in ways that would improve access and improve healthcare outcomes for our most vulnerable. And we went straight to work.
But when we submitted our waiver to the prior administration to implement our plan, we — as many of you can attest in prior administrations — we encountered roadblocks and bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.
It took our state more than two years for the federal government to approve our waiver. And even then, they, frankly, rejected an awful lot of what we were trying to do. I know many of you have submitted waiver requests over recent years to Washington, D.C. and had the same result.
Now, President Trump and I both believe that governors should have the freedom to design and implement the reforms in healthcare that will work in your states. And we’re going to fight to make that a reality in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
President Donald Trump is dedicated to getting the federal government out of your way and allowing you to develop those unique solutions that will work for the people of your state. As the President told you in February, the federal government, in his words, should be not in your way but working with you to deliver needed reforms and services. And that’s our commitment again today.
Now, tomorrow you’re going to hear from Secretary Tom Price from the Department of Health and Human Services, who accompanied me here today, and Administrator Seema Verma about our President’s commitment to work with each and every one of you. Earlier this year, they sent a letter to every governor in America, in their words, to affirm the President’s partnership with all of your states.
And I got to tell you — and I hope you’ve already had this experience — Secretary Tom Price and Administrator Seema Verma, we’ve got the A-team. They’re fighting for you. They’re fighting for the states’ ability to innovate and meet the needs of our most vulnerable, and improve our healthcare system. And I’d like you to give them a round of applause. (Applause.)
As you’ve heard from those Cabinet officials, and I’m here to say again today: Our administration wants you to innovate. We want you to improve your own health insurance markets and strengthen your Medicaid programs. And I promise you that this administration will work with you in a timely way so that you can move forward with the policies and plans that are best for your states and your citizens.
And a case in point: Just a few days ago, Administrator Verma approved a state innovation waiver for Alaska to lower premiums and improve access to care for thousands of Alaskans. And, Governor, we commend you for your leadership.
Our administration is committed to working with you as partners. And the good news is that the Senate’s healthcare bill will expand state freedom and flexibility to an even greater degree than the law permits our administration to extend today. The bill actually rolls back restrictions on waivers, giving states the ability to stabilize your insurance markets after they’ve been virtually destroyed in recent years.
And when it comes to Medicaid, not only does the Senate’s healthcare bill expand state flexibility, it ensures that every state in America has the resources you need to take care of your most vulnerable.
As a former governor who expanded Medicaid in our state with consumer-directed healthcare, I have to tell you I understand and appreciate, as the President does, the concerns that many of you have as we talk about Medicaid in the future going forward. Our administration has paid very close attention to this issue, and we’ve had discussions with governors around this room and around the country.
So let me be clear: President Trump and I believe the Senate healthcare bill strengthens and secures Medicaid for the neediest in our society. And this bill puts this vital America program on a path to long-term sustainability.
Under the Senate healthcare bill, federal Medicaid spending will be $300 billion to $500 billion higher over the next decade relative to current amounts, ensuring that our states have the ability to provide for the most vulnerable and give them the care that they’re counting on.
And when it comes to receiving this funding, your states will have two options — a per-capita cap or a block grant.
The per-capita cap gives each state the money you need to cover Medicaid’s traditional beneficiaries, who need the most assistance.
And with the block grant option, you’ll be able to determine how to best use your Medicaid dollars. And you can provide for your most vulnerable in ways that’s best for your state.
At the same time, the Senate healthcare bill creates a stability fund in addition to that that states can use to help people obtain personal coverage as they transition out of the Medicaid expansion.
People on Medicaid will be eligible for the new tax credits, which will help them purchase the affordable coverage that’s right for them.
The truth is that these reforms are long overdue.
Under Obamacare, the Medicaid expansion costs 50 percent more per enrollee than what we were told. At this very moment, Medicaid is one of the largest and fastest growing budget items in nearly every state budget. But you already know that. And as Medicaid grows, there’s less and less money for schools, for roads, and for public safety.
The truth is for a long time Medicaid has been a broken system that’s been fundamentally unsustainable, and the expansion that occurred Obamacare only made the system worse.
This just can’t continue. That’s why the Senate healthcare bill puts Medicaid on a budget for the first time in its history — ensuring for the long run that Medicaid will be there for the neediest in our society.
Obamacare has put far too many able-bodied adults on the Medicaid rolls, leaving many disabled and vulnerable Americans at the back of the line. It’s true, and it’s heartbreaking. I know Governor Kasich isn’t with us, but I suspect that he’s very troubled to know that in Ohio alone, nearly 60,000 disabled citizens are stuck on waiting lists, leaving them without the care they need for months or even years.
Just a few weeks ago at the White House, I met just such a family from a state that had expanded Medicaid. Christine and Jacob Chalkey. They’re a beautiful family, but they have a heartbreaking story, and it’s one that America needs to hear.
Jacob is Christine’s son, a courageous young man in his early 20s. He has a rare disability, and for nearly his entire life, he depended on Medicaid in his state for the medicine that he needs.
But a few years back, when their state expanded traditional Medicaid, the state also announced that they were going to cut back on coverage for medication like Jacob’s.
One day, Christine told me with tears in her eyes, as well, that she got a letter in the mail saying that the state would no longer pay for Jacob’s medicine. The family tried as hard as they could to get enough money together, but they just couldn’t do it. They had to switch to a different, cheaper alternative that might not work.
And sure enough, it didn’t. Young Jake’s health began to fail, she told me. He even lost his ability to see, to walk, and to talk. Only by the grace of God did he regain these skills and a loving family was there at his side. But every day is now a struggle for him and their family.
Jake is not alone. The truth is I’ve heard from special-needs families as I’ve traveled all across this country, and they’ve told me again and again that unless we reform Medicaid, our most vulnerable are going to continue to be crowded out of coverage that they rely on and depend on.
I don’t have to ask any one of you to know where your hearts are on this issue. You know Medicaid was created in the very instances of its founding to support the aged, the blind, the disabled, and vulnerable children. And unless we bring about needful reforms that you alone in your state know how to best implement, we’re going to continue to see scarce resources crowd out the help that our most vulnerable need. And I know that no one around this table, no one sitting in a governor’s office in our states or territories wants that to happen.
This demands a compassionate response. I know all of you care deeply about those families. You want to provide for them and give them the best shot at a better life.
I say that with confidence because I know all of you. Beyond the politics that may separate us, I have to tell you that being among governors was one of the most inspiring times in my season of public service. Because as Gina and I were talking earlier, governors are doers. You roll your sleeves up. More often than not, you just check your politics at the door and go figure out how to solve problems. And this room is filled with men and women who are problem-solvers.
So I want to say this is your chance. The Senate healthcare bill restores Medicaid to its original purpose — caring for the disabled, the blind, the low-income elderly, pregnant women, and children. And we can put you back in the driver’s seat to making sure that it does just that.
I really believe, as the President does, that we’re saving Medicaid for the sake of our most vulnerable and all that depend on it. We’re providing all Americans with access to the high quality and affordable health insurance with the reforms that are moving through Congress today.
This really is about caring for the least among us, and it’s about doing the right thing. And at the end of the day, I know in my heart of hearts the men and women around this table, and everyone in public service at every level longs to do just that.
Before I leave, I’d like to mention one more accomplishment in the Senate healthcare bill that I know is of great interest and has already been a subject of discussion appropriately at this gathering of the National Governors Association. I’m pleased to report that the new Senate healthcare bill provides unprecedented new resources to address the opioid crisis that’s ravaging our states and communities across this nation. (Applause.)
The President and I are grateful for each one of your leadership on this issue. And in my days back in the Hoosier State, I sat around kitchen tables with families that were dealing with the loss of a loved one to opioid addiction, or dealing with the long, long road back from opioid addiction and abuse.
Now you all would be glad to know that President Trump has made a priority of this administration to end the scourge of opioid addiction in this country. He knows the impact that it has on families, and we’re determined in this administration to bring the full resources of the national government to bear on assisting you as you come alongside these families.
President Trump has been giving our law enforcement community at every level the resources and backing they need to go after this on the law enforcement side. We’ve been getting gang members, drug dealers, and violent criminals like MS-13 off the streets of our cities at an unprecedented pace. The President has also created a commission devoted to addressing the opioid crisis because we know that we have to meet this crisis not just with law enforcement but also with compassion and with new resources for those that are caught up in the scourge of addiction.
With this President’s support, the Senate healthcare bill unveiled yesterday a remarkable $45 billion in new federal resources to confront opioid abuse and addiction in our states. (Applause.)
And when this bill is signed into law, every state in America will benefit from this funding. And passing this bill is a vital step to help those who suffer in the grip of addiction, our communities, and our country, and put our entire nation back on the road to healing.
As the Governor and I were just talking a moment ago, once again in your state, after Congress passed the Cures Act last year, you’re going to have the ability with these new resources to look at issues like not only treatment, but also treatment centers to build further capacity in your states to make resources available for people and their families to deal with the scourge of addition. And we know your leadership will make a difference in lives.
The bottom line: That the Senate healthcare act provides for the most vulnerable in our society. It improves and strengthens Medicaid. It gives you, America’s governors, the flexibility you need to bring better care, better coverage, and better outcomes to the citizens of your states. The President and I truly believe it will be a historic day for American healthcare when the President has the privilege to sign this bill into law. And we commend it. We commend this bill to your attention, and we ask for your support.
But today, I want to ask all of you to continue to work with us to build on the good work being done in this Congress on healthcare and on so many other issues. I want to challenge each one of you to work together with this administration to give the American people access to the world-class healthcare they deserve and to move forward the kind of policies that will strengthen our nation, strengthen our economy, and advance the security and safety of the American people.
But we truly do believe now is the time to act in the Congress in healthcare reform for the sake of the American people. Now is the time to usher in a new era of state-based innovation. Now is the time to make the best healthcare system the world even better.
And as I close, let me again thank you for the warm welcome today and the good fellowship. When I arrived today one of my colleagues asked me if I missed you. And the truth is, I do. The privilege of serving as a governor of the state I grew up in was the greatest privilege of my life till that phone rang a year ago this weekend.
But there’s something special about governors, and I want you to know that President Trump and I know it. And we’re just determined to seize this moment in the life of our nation to advance the interests and the well-being of people of our country. And we ask for your support.
And as I ask it, I say with confidence that I know we will succeed as we confront the challenges in healthcare and beyond because I have faith.
So with boundless faith in the American people, with faith in you men and women in this room who lead the great states of this Union, with faith in our President’s vision and determination, and with faith in God who has ever watched over this Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, I say with confidence: We will make America safe again. We will make America prosperous again. We will give Americans the opportunity to have access to world-class healthcare again. And to borrow a phrase, working with all of you on behalf of all of the American people, we will Make America Great Again.
Thank you very much. God bless you for your service to this nation. God bless your states and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)