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Remarks at a Coronavirus Briefing With Health Insurance Industry Executives

March 10, 2020

The President. Well, thank you very much. We're meeting with the top executives of the health insurance companies, the biggest companies in our country, probably the biggest companies in the world. I can't imagine being much bigger.

But these are the great health insurance companies. And I think tremendous progress is being made. They're willing to do things for the people and their customers and probably, in a true sense, beyond their customers that normally I don't think they'd be doing.

And so I want to thank them, and I'll ask Vice President Pence to maybe give us a little update as to where we are.

Vice President Michael R. Pence. I'd be very happy to. Thank you, Mr. President. President Trump made it clear from the early days of the coronavirus in the United States that this would be a whole-of-Government approach. And we've brought the full resources of the Federal Government to bear. But this President has also called together businesses and industries to make this a whole-of-America approach.

And last week, at this table, the President met with pharmaceutical leaders, we met with nursing home leaders, leaders of commercial labs, airline industries. We're bringing all of the businesses of the country to bear to protect the health of the American people.

But today, Mr. President, you directed us to bring together insurance companies—health insurance companies—that cover, through private insurance and through their support of Medicare and Medicaid, almost 240 million Americans. And I'm pleased to report, as you requested, Mr. President, that all the insurance companies here—either today or before today— have agreed to waive all copays on coronavirus testing and extend coverage for coronavirus treatment in all of their benefit plans.

And, at your direction, Medicare and Medicaid, last week, already made it clear to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries that coronavirus testing and treatment would be covered. These private insurance carriers have extended that as well.

They've also agreed to cover telemedicine so that anyone, particularly among a vulnerable senior population, would not feel it necessary to go to a hospital or go to their doctor. They'll know that telemedicine is covered.

These CEOs have also agreed to no surprise billing. We want people to get tested. Over a million tests are out, thanks to the diligent work of CDC and HHS. More than 4 million will go out this week. You've worked with commercial labs to expand testing, and that will continue to increase by the day.

But we want the American people to know that they are covered through private insurance.

They are covered through Medicare and Medicaid. And there will be no surprise billing.

And finally, Mr. President, as you directed us yesterday, we produced helpful information for every American family: how they can keep their home, their school, their business, their establishment safer from the spread of the coronavirus. All of these major health insurance companies have agreed to convey all this information, starting today, to all of their customers, as well as to send the CDC's guidance for seniors with underlying health conditions to give them specific recommendations.

And so, as you requested us, they've all agreed to work with us to communicate information directly to the American people, because, as you've said, Mr. President, while the risk to the average American of contracting the coronavirus remains low, we want a full partnership with industry and give the American people all the information they need to avoid contracting or spreading the coronavirus. And particularly, these companies are going to help us get information to seniors with underlying health conditions who really represent the most vulnerable population to serious outcomes.

And I know I speak on behalf of the President when I say how grateful we are for the collaborative spirit, the generosity, and the partnership represented by the great companies at this table.

The President. It's true. Very true. And we are working very closely with the cruise line industry and—very, very closely. They're taking very strong steps in terms of people going on and going off. But they're spending a lot of money and they are working very hard. And we're work—we're going to be helping that industry. Likewise, with the airline industry, they're taking very, very strong steps for people coming into our country, even getting off the planes. So we are working very closely with them. We're helping them. And they're two great industries, and we'll be helping them through this patch.

And so far, I think it's been going very well. You know all about the big ship that came in yesterday. And that's going along incredibly well.

We're working with the State of California successfully—very successfully—also with Canada and with U.K. So U.K. is taking their people, their citizens back, and Canada is about 600 people; they're coming back. They're being met and brought to planes and being brought very, very—in a very, very dignified fashion back into Canada. So we appreciate all of the help we've had in that. And that's working out very well.

With that, I might just ask a couple of folks, if you'd like to make a statement on behalf of the industry, perhaps we'll—would you like to make a statement on behalf of the industry?

Anthem, Inc., President and Chief Executive Officer Gail K. Boudreaux. Sure. I am—this is Gail Boudreaux. And one of the things that I think is most important is, from day one, as an industry and as a company at Anthem, we have been very focused on ensuring access to care and that cost is not an issue for people to have the testing appropriately done. So we're pleased that we're able to continue to expand this access.

And as the President said, I think it's really important for all of our customers, our members, and the American people to have this. So we are very supportive of the——

The President. Thank you, Gail.

Ms. Boudreaux. ——efforts underway.

The President. Great job you're doing. Thank you very much.

Anybody else? Would anybody else like to make a statement? Even the ones over here.

You're going to turn your head? [Laughter] Look at those cameras.

America's Health Insurance Plans President and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Eyles. I'll say on behalf of the industry——

The President. Yes.

Mr. Eyles. ——that we represent the great companies around the table here, but then those that operate at a local level, that we all have the same commitment to making sure that cost is not a barrier to people getting tested and treated. We want to make sure that we're focused on prevention and testing and treatment——

The President. Right.

Mr. Eyles. ——and getting that information out as quickly as we can to make sure that people know how to limit the spread of disease.

The President. Very good. Thank you very much. Please.

BlueCross BlueShield Association Senior Vice President for Policy and Representation Justine Handelman. Mr. President, on behalf of the 36 independent BlueCross BlueShield plans that insure one in three Americans, we're pleased to make sure that people have access to the test, to the coverage that they need.

I also want you to know that the commitments we've made also apply to the Federal employees program where we insure over 5 million employees.

The President. That's great. Thank you. Thank you all.

The Vice President. Maybe——

The President. Please.

Humana President and Chief Executive Officer Bruce D. Broussard. I would just like to say as, a large servicer of Medicare, that we are very oriented to the aging population, and most importantly, how do we make it as easy as possible for them to receive their tests. And being able to do it in the home is a very important part of that. And so when we think about telemedicine and home, it reduces great barriers to——

The President. Right.

Mr. Broussard. ——that will allow them to have the testing.

The President. And a lot of people now are taking advantage of that, really, strong advantage.

Who else would you suggest?

Vice President Pence. Maybe Dave Wichmann, Mr. President.

The President. Dave? Please.

UnitedHealth Group Chief Executive Officer David S. Wichmann. Mr. President, thank you for having us, first and foremost. And, I guess, just to extend the conversation, we're working very hard to protect the health workforce, which we think is essential to ensure that Americans have access to the proper care. Getting the health workforce back to work—so quickly tested and back serving patients—is a high priority for us as an organization serving some—around 18 million patients across America.

The President. Right. Okay, thank you.

And, Governor. Pete Ricketts. Nebraska, everybody. Nice to see you, by the way.

Governor J. Peter Ricketts of Nebraska. Mr. President, I just appreciate your leadership——

The President. Thank you.

Gov. Ricketts. ——and the Vice President's leadership to work with the Governors to be able to make sure we're keeping people healthy in our States. It's been a fantastic cooperation at all levels of government, and we really appreciate also all the cooperation of all these executives around the table to make sure that the people in my State and all the States across the country will be able to be able to get the test and not worry about how they're going to pay for it.

The President. Right. Great thing. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you very much, everybody.

The President's Travel Plans

Q. Mr. President, are you still going to Capitol Hill today to discuss your economic plan, sir?

The President. Yes.

Q. You are?

The President. I am. About 12:30.

Q. How soon will you have a package to present to Americans?

Q. Mr. President, your former Homeland Security Adviser just said on NBC we're about 10 days away from hospitals getting "creamed"——

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:43 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. A reporter referred to former Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Thomas P. Bossert.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks at a Coronavirus Briefing With Health Insurance Industry Executives Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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