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The Roosevelt Room

2:36 P.M. EDT

Q    Well, good afternoon.  And on behalf of President Trump and the First Family, welcome to the White House.  I am honored to be able to welcome you here for an ongoing discussion from some of the great women entrepreneurs across this country about the President’s determination and the need to repeal and replace Obamacare.

We appreciate you coming to bring your real-world experience.  I look very much forward to hearing your perspective and hearing how best we can carry this message to the Congress and to the country.

I’m grateful to be joined by the Secretary of HHS, Dr. Tom Price; the Administrator of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, Seema Verma; and also the Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway.  We’ll also be joined by other members of the Cabinet as our conversation goes forward.

It is a great privilege for me on behalf of the President to welcome so many women small-business owners from across the country.  They talk about the terrible burden that Obamacare is placing on job creators.

And first, let me just thank you for what you do.  Thank you for the jobs that you create.  I had a little small business of my own that my wife and I started in the basement of our home about 25 years ago.  And I know what it is to be in business for yourself.  I know the sacrifices that you make, the hardships that often you face.  But first and foremost, thank you for being great corporate citizens.  And thank you for the success that you have created that has benefitted families who have the opportunity to work with you and work for you.

It is estimated that more than 11.3 million businesses in America are women-owned business, employing nearly 9 million people across this country, and having more than $1.6 trillion in revenues.

Women-owned businesses are growing like gangbusters across this country — it really is amazing — at a rate five times faster than the national average over the past 10 years.

President Trump and I are grateful for what you do every day, and we want you to be more successful than ever before.  That’s why the President has been fighting to roll back excessive regulations, to unleash the power of American energy, keep the cost of energy low, and why we’ve been fighting since the first day of this administration to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Obamacare is putting a tremendous business [burden], as you all know, on small businesses across this country with its reams of red tape, skyrocketing premium costs, mandates, and taxes that have been costing jobs and costing growth in this economy.  I’ve got a couple of great business owners around this table, but I want to hear from just a few of them.  Kelly Moore and Amy Pope-Wells, I’m going to ask to speak about your personal experiences.

But in Kelly’s case, under Obamacare her eastern Ohio business, GKM Auto Parts, has faced I’m told double-digit premium hikes every year.  As you often say your worst day as a small-business owner was last year when you had to tell your employees that you could no longer provide health insurance.

I’m going to give you a chance with members of the media present to be able to reflect on that.

Amy Pope-Wells is the owner of Link Staffing Services in Jacksonville, Florida.  We’ve had the opportunity to meet in the past and know what a dynamic business leader you are, but the hardship that you’ve faced — not only in your own business, but in the businesses that you serve that are facing the impact of the cost of healthcare following Obamacare.  It’s a story that needs to be told.

The truth is the American people are struggling under the weight of the failed policies of Obamacare, and it must go.  Secretary Price and his team at Health and Human Services released a study just two weeks ago showing that in real numbers premiums have more than doubled under Obamacare since 2013, up 105 percent.

Now, I was in the Congress when Obamacare was passed into law, and I remember all the promises — if you like your doctor, you can keep them.  Remember?  If you like your insurance, you could keep it.  But the central promise was the cost of health insurance would go down, and here we are that since 2013 alone premiums across this country have increased by 105 percent.  America can’t afford Obamacare any longer.

President Trump and our administration are working every day with members of Congress, and we’re not going to rest until we repeal and replace Obamacare with the kind of healthcare reform the American people deserve, healthcare reform built on consumer choice, on free-market principles, on state-based innovation, and a respect for the doctor-patient relationship.

With that, I’m here to listen, not to talk.  And let me thank you again on behalf of the President for your willingness to come here to the White House to tell you story.

I also see Linda McMahon, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration, is with us today.  We’re grateful for your leadership.

But first, Kelly, and then Amy, maybe you could share a little bit of your experience with Obamacare and just how important it will be to repeal and replace it.

MS. MOORE:  I don’t believe my story is unique.  I think my story actually is one that’s told by a number of small-business owners.  But in 2016, we were facing a 22 percent increase in premiums, and this is after a steady rise of double digits ever since the ACA was passed.  With the exception of one year, we had double-digit increases.

I have good employees.  I think of them as family.  It was gut-wrenching to tell them that I was ending their benefit of insurance.  And they are decent people who work hard for us, and we appreciate their good talents.  And we look to the future and think, how will we be able to attract good talented people in the future?  It’s been very difficult since then for them to find affordable healthcare.  And I think that the problem has been exacerbated, not gone away with all of this uncertainty about the future.

So for us it’s critical that we have some sort of stability in our business, that we get some sort of an answer as to what we can expect in the future.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you, Kelly.  Thanks.

MS. MOORE:  Thank you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thanks for your obvious deep concern for your employees.  Because you’d like to be able to afford to cover them.

MS. MOORE:  I would love to be able to offer that benefit again.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Right.  But it just reached a point with double-digit increases you could no longer afford to make that part of your benefits?

MS. MOORE:  It was a decision of whether to have one of my employees have to — have to lay off somebody in order to afford it for the rest.  And that didn’t make good business sense, and it was unaffordable for them.  We did try by splitting the premium maybe 20 at the beginning; 70-30, 60-40.  We also dropped spousal coverage.  We’ve made efforts to make it affordable, but they no longer have the premiums or the deductibles that they could afford with the amount that they were paying.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Kelly, you know I see from the nods around the table that sounds like a pretty familiar experience to all the women entrepreneurs around the table today.

And I appreciate you sharing —

MS. MOORE:  Thank you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — your perspective with us today.

Amy Pope-Wells, can you maybe speak a little bit about your struggle both in Link Staffing Services with Obamacare, but also with all the companies that you work with in meeting their employment needs, what you’re seeing across the marketplace?

MS. POPE-WELLS:  Well, I think — like you said, it’s not unique.  I think all of us saw somewhere around a 25 percent increase.  So as a small business, you have to make budgetary decisions.  But part of that is not just the decision of the budget, but then how it impacts all those employees.  We have about 85 or so contractors in the field and a staff of six that support them.  That’s just the beginning of it.

You got an increase.  You either pass the increase or you don’t.  We had clients, which I never even envisioned being a problem, who refused to start doing business with us because under the regulation we were required to list ACA charges on our invoices.  And those clients said, we did not vote for it.  We did not want it.  We do not appreciate it.

So we as a business not only took a 25 percent premium increase, we also saw that clients were refusing to participate, which we had to make tough business decisions again.  So we made those decisions of what plans to go with the 25 percent increase, what clients we would lose or keep.

But then the quagmire of the rules and regulations start.  We found ourselves having to spend — everybody in our office spending time on benefits management:  medical procedures being denied, people not understanding the rules or the processes.  We got into the insurance business.  We physically had to learn how to educate and support our team, and we’re not in the insurance business.

So it’s been a challenge that I believe us, as Americans, should start simplifying and figure out how to fix it better.  Because we want a healthy population.

We even saw our younger population who just refused to start taking it.  They said, I’m not going to pay $1,200 or $1,900 a month for a premium — and walk away.  So we’ve got our young populations deciding not to take healthcare.  That’s not the solution.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Right, so how many people around the table think that there is an urgent need to repeal and replace Obamacare?

MS. POPE-WELLS:  Oh, absolutely.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you for that perspective.

MS. POPE-WELLS:  You’re welcome.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And thank you all very much.  I appreciate it.

2:47 P.M. EDT