THE PRESIDENT: You are the big ones. You are the biggest of the big, right? (Laughter.) That's very impressive. Thank you for being here. We just had a great meeting with the governors on the horrible effects that Obamacare is having. We're going to change it and straighten it out, and make -- we have a plan that's going to be, I think, fantastic. It will be released fairly soon. We'll be talking about it tomorrow night during the speech. But I think it's going to be something special, and we'll talk it about right here. I think we'll get you on, and I think you're going to like what you hear.
Again, thank you for being here. I want to thank also Secretary Tom Price who's with us, and who's doing a phenomenal job on a very complex subject, the subject of healthcare. He's an advocate for the patients. Tom is all about the patients. That's what he wants. He wants to have a great healthcare system.
Obamacare has been a disaster, and it's only getting worse. Last year alone, Obamacare premiums increased by double digits. Since it has gone into effect, premiums are up by almost 100 percent in many areas. And I think that this year it's going to be really the year that I've always predicted -- '17 is going to be a catastrophic year for Obamacare, for payments. And you just take a look at what's happening in various states like Arizona -- I believe it was up 116 percent; it's going to be worse this year.
Obamacare forced providers to limit the plan options they offered to patients and caused them to drive prices way up. Now, a third of United States counties are down to one insurer, and the insurers are fleeing. You people know that better than anybody.
Since Obamacare went into effect, nearly half of the insurers are stopped and have stopped from participating in the Obamacare exchanges. It has gotten so bad that nearly 20 million Americans have chosen to pay the penalty, or received an exemption rather than buy insurance. That's something that nobody has ever heard of or thought could happen, and they're actually doing that rather than being forced to buy insurance.
We must work together to save Americans from Obamacare -- you people know that, and everyone knows that at this point -- to create more competition and to bring down the prices substantially. The chaos that Obamacare has created, and for which congressional Democrats -- and you see that -- are alone and responsible for requires swift action. I actually told the Republicans that if we did nothing, just do nothing for a two-year period, let Obamacare totally implode -- which it's doing right now anyway -- that would be, from a political standpoint, the best thing we could do is to let it implode, and then people will come begging -- the Democrats will come begging to do something to help them out of the jam.
Once we start doing it, we sort of inherit the problem, we take over the problem, it becomes ours. But it's the right thing to do for the American people. I think allowing this to go on -- this disaster to go on -- is a mistake. So I'm asking Secretary Price to work with you to stabilize the insurance markets and to ensure a smooth transition to the new plan. And the new plan will be a great plan for the patients, for the people, and hopefully for the companies. It's going to be a very competitive plan. And costs will come down, and I think the healthcare will go up very, very substantially. I think people are going to like it a lot.
We've taken the best of everything we can take. It's our hope that Democrats will stop the obstruction and resistance. And that's what they have -- in fact, they have a sign, "resist, resist." They want to resist everything, including Cabinet members. I have many Cabinet members that haven't been approved yet, people that are extraordinary -- all of whom are going to be approved, but they just take forever. It's called obstruct and resist. Hope I didn't give them a new phrase, because their real phrase is "resist." I think I just gave them another word. I shouldn't have done that. I'm good at branding. (Laughter.) You're going to see them now come out, "obstruct and resist." All right, well, at least I can take credit for it.
And they worked with us, and we are going to hopefully work with the Democrats, because ultimately we're all people that love this country and we want to do the right thing, including reforms like expanded healthcare savings accounts, state flexibility, and the ability to purchase across state lines. The state lines are so important for competition. Everybody has wanted to do it for years. What's not to do? So that's going to be very important.
I want to thank you all for being here. I want to know and I want you to know that it's an honor to do business with you. It's a great honor to have you in the White House. And we look forward to providing healthcare that is that is extraordinary -- better than any other country anywhere in the world. And we can do that. We have the talent, we have the capacity, and we have the people.
So we'll work on that together. And maybe before the press leaves, you can just introduce yourself and your company, and the public will get to see what you're about. And then if things aren't working out, I'm blaming you anyway. (Laughter.)
So we'll start with Brad.
MR. WILSON: Thank you, Mr. President. I appreciate the opportunity to be here. I'm Brad Wilson, president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, and pleased to represent our 3.9 million customers here today.
THE PRESIDENT: That's great, Brad. Great job.
MR. BERTOLINI: Mark Bertolini, chairman and CEO of Aetna.
THE PRESIDENT: Aetna -- good one.
PARTICIPANT: And I also represent America's health insurance plans. We represent all health insurance plans in Washington, D.C., including the plan to cover Medicaid managed care.
THE PRESIDENT: Great.
MR. BROUSSARD: Bruce Broussard, CEO of Humana.
MR. GARRITY: Pat Garrity, I'm the CEO of Florida Blue, the Blue Cross Blue Shield plan in the state of Florida.
THE PRESIDENT: Great.
MR. HEMSLEY: I'm Steve Hemsley from UnitedHealth Group. We're a diversified health care company of about 230,000 employees. We serve about 120 million Americans. And we are contributing in terms of the jobs we've -- 35,000 in the last five years and 10,000 in the coming year. We're a mission-driven enterprise, help people live healthier lives, and make the system work for everyone.
THE PRESIDENT: Good, thank you very much.
MR. CORDANI: Mr. President, David Cordani from Cigna Corporation. We're a global health service company.
MR. SEROTA: Scott Serota, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. We represent 108 million subscribers.
THE PRESIDENT: 108 million, that's a pretty big deal, right?
MR. SEROTA: Yes, it is.
THE PRESIDENT: Pretty big.
MR. SWEDISH: Good morning, Mr. President. I'm Joe Swedish with Anthem. We're in 14 states, representing 40 percent of the American public. We have 40 million members, and we've been involved in the individual (inaudible) for probably seven decades, and deeply embedded in the Affordable Care Act situation that has evolved over the last three years. I don't want to miss the opportunity to thank you for the swift and decisive action that occurred most recently regarding some adjustments that have occurred in and around --
THE PRESIDENT: We had to step in.
MR. SWEDISH: Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: It was going to be an implosion. We had to step in. Thank you for saying that.
MR. SWEDISH: Thank you, sir. Thank you.
MR. TYSON: I'm Bernard Tyson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, better known as Kaiser Permanente. We cover 11.7 million Americans. We also are an integrated delivery system, so we both provide the coverage and the care. We have Permanente medical groups that contract exclusively with Kaiser Foundation Health Plan. And we're proud to care for 11.7 million people.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Bernard.
MR. HILFERTY: Mr. President, I'm Dan Hilferty. I'm based in Philadelphia with Independence Blue Cross, Independence Health Group. We're in 32 states and the District of Columbia and a large Medicaid managed care population.
We're the only player on the exchange in the five-county Philadelphia area. And again, I'd like to echo Joe's point. We were thrilled with the initial steps to stabilize the market. We look forward to working with you, Vice President Pence, Secretary Price in making sure that we have a sustainable program for years to come. So thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. And the market, as you know, and we talk about stabilizing the market -- the market is disastrous. It's going to absolutely implode. That's why we're meeting today. And I think we're going to come up with something where not only will the market be great, but the people are going to be taken care of. So we will work that out I think quite easily, actually.
Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody.