Governor Cuomo: "We're not going to allow Trump to tear down our health care system. We've come too far. We're not going back. We now have the best health care system this state has ever had and we're proud of it."
In the face of the Trump administration's continuing attack on the Affordable Care Act, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today directed the Department of Financial Services to reject efforts by health insurance companies to gain windfall profits off of the Trump administration's decision to repeal the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act.
Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York was one of the first states in the nation to implement its own health insurance exchange following the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Since then, New York has cut the number of uninsured rate to 5 percent, and premiums in the individual market have dropped more than 50 percent. Today the state has a robust market, with New Yorkers in every county having a choice of coverage. Governor Cuomo vows to not allow President Trump to undo that progress made in New York. More information is available here.
AUDIO of the Governor's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is below:
Governor Cuomo: Thank you. Thank you very much. Well it is a pleasure to be at Mr. Sinai, let's give this great institution a round of applause. David Rich, thank you very much for having us. It really is one of New York's special jewels, so it's a pleasure to be here with all of you.
George Gresham and Ken Raske, let's give them a round of applause and everything they do. Now, you haven't seen anything until you've seen George Gresham and Ken Raske on a rooftop in Puerto Rico being taught by a young woman how to use a grinder and almost cutting off parts of their body with that grinder. But they were there working and they did a great job and it says something about who they are. They were there to make a difference and they were there to use their blood and sweat and time to protect New Yorkers. So let's give them a round of applause for their good work.
That's alright, everybody has a point of view, especially today. Kathy Hochul, our Lieutenant Governor, who's doing a great job, let's give her a round of applause. To my colleagues in the Assembly, to my colleagues in the Congress, thank you very much for being here. We need you now more than ever. Let's give them a round of applause. To Jill Furillo and the nurses, God bless you for what you do. And to the members of 1199, God bless you, I love each and every one of you.
Let me start where George left off. These are challenging times. These are political times. These are ugly times. And turning on the TV is hard and watching these talking heads go back and forth. There is, however, one show that you can watch. It is on CNN at 9 o'clock and it is Chris Cuomo Prime Time. I say that even though he will not invite me on the show. I believe it is discrimination of family members. I've threatened to sue CNN. CNN says it's not them, it's Chris. I think he's afraid to let me on because he can't deal with me. He can't handle me and he knows it. I intimidate him. But he's doing a beautiful job on that show.
But George is right. These times are just ugly. And there's almost a day to day parade of these bizarre acts, these appalling acts, these disgusting acts and everyday it's a new series. But, while all of this is going on, don't let us get distracted, because there are fundamental shifts that this administration is trying to bring to bear on this country that will have lasting changes that are far worse than any of the garbage you see day to day. They have a different world view of America and they are systematically trying to impose their worldview on this country. Don't kid yourself. And it's worse than what happens day to day.
They are systematically sowing seeds of division. They are trying to take America's strength, which is its diversity, and make it a weakness. They're trying to say they have their own worldview and their own view of what is the right religion and the right lifestyle. And if you don't agree with their view, then your rights are diminished. So if you're an LGBTQ member, your rights are diminished. If you're a Muslim, your rights are diminished because you're the wrong religion. If you're a woman who believes she should have the right to control her own health choices, then you are diminished, because that's not their view of reality and morality. If you are a government that doesn't fit their view, then they demonize that government and they try to destroy that government. They are trying to destroy the government of the state of New York.
They passed something in their tax provision, their Tax Reform Act, called SALT - state and local tax deductibility, where they eliminated for the first time in New York State history the deductibility of state and local taxes. Why would they do that? So that it actually increases state and local taxes. Because they don't want local governments to be active. They don't want us providing funding for public education and for health care. So they are literally trying to destroy those states and put them in a less competitive position. This is not ideological. That gives them too much credit. An extreme conservative theoretically would do the opposite of what they're doing. Remember the extreme conservatives, "limited federal government, shrink that federal government, shrink the bureaucrats in Washington, look to state and local government, look to individual rights," that's what an extreme conservative preached. They're the opposite. They're the federal government, more muscle than ever before, trying to impose their will on the nation. Their trampling individual rights. They're trampling state rights. It's not ideological. It is personal and political. They come from their vantage point. They are rich and wealthy and well-off. And if you are rich and wealthy and well-off, you have one view of the world. You don't need public education because your kids go to private school. You don't need to fund college loans because you don't have that issue. You don't need public health insurance because you can get private health insurance. You don't need retirement benefits. You don't need pensions. You don't need unions because you're not a worker, you're an owner, and that is the view that they're imposing on this country.
Now when it comes to health care, what they want to do on health care is one of the most dramatic shifts, one of the most impactful shifts and one of the most frightening shifts. Every forward looking federal administration has said the same thing, that it is in the individual and collective interest to have a robust public health system. It goes back to FDR who tried twice to reform health care in this country. Truman followed FDR trying to do the same thing. Johnson followed them and actually succeeded - Medicare, Medicaid, 53-year anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid. Thank God for Medicare and Medicaid. Bill and Hilary Clinton tried it and then President Obama stepped up and he tried it, and he succeeded with the Affordable Care Act despite the Republicans fighting him every step of the way. They have tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act 60 times - 60 times. Why? Because they don't see the need for it. Why should they help other people get health insurance? If you can afford it, you get health insurance and if you can't afford it, you don't. that's their view.
Now, we took the Affordable Care Act, and as George and Ken, and with the help of the people in this room, we needed a phenomenal success for the state of New York. One million people have gained health insurance under the affordable care act. We put in place the best exchange in the nation despite the Republicans fighting us every step of the way. We did it without the Republicans in the legislature. We did it unilaterally and now 22 percent of the people in this state who get health insurance get it through our exchange. Is that incredible? We cut the uninsured rate from 10 percent down to 5 percent. Only 5 percent of New Yorkers don't have health insurance and premiums of commercial insurers has gone down 50 percent today versus before the Affordable Care Act.
Now Trump is doing everything he can to dismantle it. He's trying to do it administratively. He's trying to do it with his budgets. He's trying to do it by cutting Medicaid and cutting DSH and cutting help to safety net hospitals and to teaching hospitals. If he can't do it administratively he'll have his Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh do it who has already said he's against the Affordable Care Act. So he's coming to end it one way or the other, don't kid yourself. If they were ever successful in ending the Affordable Care Act, it would be catastrophic for New York. Millions would not have health insurance and it would jeopardize the entire health care industry as Ken said, and everything else aside, the health care industry is 20 percent of this state's overall economy. That's important it is. We must stop them, period, and we must stop them now.
We are going to do it by codifying the Affordable Care Act in New York State law and New York State regulations. We have already started, we banned insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing illnesses so that is done. We required all insurance companies to cover the 10 essential benefits laid out in the Affordable Care Act. We mandated insurance companies to end all copays for breast cancer screenings and to increase access. And we mandated a woman's right to contraceptive care, that's in the law.
Now what they are trying to do, is they are trying to scare people by threatening increased premiums because of the loss of the individual mandate. Ok? What they are saying is, we're going to make the individual mandate go away, which is making the insurance companies nervous so the insurance companies are coming in for very large rate increases. If the insurance companies got very large rate increases, many people would drop insurance and the exchange would collapse. That is what they are trying to do. It is Machiavellian. It is duplicitous. You are creating anxiety for millions and millions of people across the country. It's almost diabolical, but that is what they're trying to do. The insurance companies are coming in and saying well the President said the individual mandate is going to go away, and if the individual mandate goes away, the pool is going to change and therefore we need higher rates. They've come to the state of New York; the rates are regulated by the Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services who is here with us today, Maria Vullo. And they have asked for 24 percent rate increase. 24 percent. It would increase the cost of a policy about, on average, $1,500 for a policyholder. They would be effective in collapsing the exchange if that happened. Because when people saw those large increases, they would say well forget it, I'm not going to take the coverage and you would then change the consistency of the pool and the exchange would collapse. We're not going to let that happen.
Trump is trying to collapse the ACA, he's trying to wreak havoc on our health care system. That's not going to happen, it's not going to happen in the state of New York. If we allowed that rate increase to go through, it would be hundreds of millions of dollars as a bonanza to the private insurance companies. It would increase the cost to normal hardworking families. We're not going to let it happen. So today I am directing the DFS Superintendent to reject any rate increase attributed to Trump's threatened effect of the loss of the individual mandate participation. Insurance premiums must be based on actual cost and not political manipulations. We're not going to allow Trump to tear down our health care system. We've come too far. We're not going back. We now have the best health care system this state has ever had and we're proud of it. It's a national treasure.
And we're going to stand up and we are going to fight back. The way we've been fighting back against all of these shifts by the Trump administration. Just think of what they're trying to do. What they've done to the immigrants on the border. And trying to tell us who's a new American and who is not a new American. And who is worthy and to come and who's not worthy to come. Who are you to say who should be a new American, we're all new Americans. They had the audacity to take children from their parents at their border. And then didn't have the competence of compassion to figure out how to reunite them. We sued them for violation of due process and I am so glad we did and we're going to pursue that lawsuit because what they did was inhumane and anti-American.
We're going to fight them on their refusal to do anything on gun violence. We have mass massacres almost on a weekly basis. These guys sold their soul to the NRA so they won't pass commonsense gun control. We did in New York with the SAFE Act and we're going to expand it even more. Sexual harassment against women is a reality, it is a fact, the Me Too movement made it graphic. Thousands of women stood up and told their story. Washington DC, their silence was deafening. We passed the strongest sexual harassment law in the United States of America to show them what they should be doing. They pulled out of the Paris Accords because they don't give a good God damn about protecting the environment and we started our own climate change coalition because we do. And George is right. They abandoned Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. They treated them like second class citizens. Puerto Rico should have gotten the same help that Texas got, that Florida got. Because Americans are Americans. And there are no second-class Americans.
Thank you. And look, fundamentally my friends, we have a fundamental different view of this country and who we are as a people and a society than Trump and his cronies. We just see a different view when we look in the mirror. We have a different definition of America. We have a different definition of what it means to be a citizen of this country.
In New York, we believe that when we made the promise "opportunity for all," it meant something. It meant something. It brought people from all across the globe to this country with that simple promise, "opportunity for all." Equality for all. Discrimination of none. That we're going to work with you to succeed, because we believe that when one person succeeds, we all succeed, and when one falls, we all fall. That's what we mean by community. We are all connected, we are all interrelated. That there is a fabric that binds us, and opportunity for all, inherent in that, said there are certain basics that society is going to work with you to provide. You should have safe, clean decent housing to live, so you can bring your life together. You should have a public education system that is so good that you can fly as high as your wings will carry you just from a public education system.
And part of that promise, "opportunity for all," is health care, not as a luxury, but as a basic human right. That is the New York way. That is who we are. That's what we believe. That's how we live our lives. Those are our values. That's how we treat one another, and we're not going to be reduced to their vision of America. We're not going to be reduced to their selfishness, and their isolation and their division. That is not who we are.
We're not going backwards. We're going to go forward. We're going to stand and we're going to rise and we're going to resist this administration. We will not be diminished. We will not be demeaned. We're going to show this administration we're going to fight back and when we come together, there is nobody who can beat us. Because we are right and they are wrong. We're going to protect our health care system. It's the best in the nation. And we're going to treat one another with love and dignity because that's what we believe as a society, as a state and as a people. Thank you and God bless you.