President Donald Trump holds up a handmade card made by a daughter of Greg Knox, a Franklin manufacturing equipment dealer who met with Trump at the White House Monday to talk about health reform. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Franklin business owner talks health care with Trump: ‘They wanted to hear from the little guys’

11-year-old daughter gives President Trump a card.

A recent conversation with Vice President Mike Pence led to a Franklin manufacturing equipment dealer meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. Monday.

Greg Knox, who owns Knox Machinery in Franklin, believes his sharing of struggles to provide health insurance for his employees led to the meeting.

There were times when health coverage costs for Knox Machinery rose 20 to 30 percent each year, he said.

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“It drove me to the point where I could no longer provide 100 percent health care for my employees and their families,” Knox said Tuesday. “My vision was to always be able to do that.”

There were years when Knox spent more on health care than he and his wife took home from the business, he said.

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After meeting with Pence and Tom Price, the U.S. health and human services secretary, at Frames USA in the Cincinnati area March 2, Knox said he received a restricted phone call from the White House, as well as an email from the deputy assistant to President Trump, in the days following.

“She said, ‘Mr. Knox, you were the talk of the town,’” Knox said, describing the email from the president’s deputy assistant.

He got an invitation to a “listening session” with Trump.

“Just like that,” he said. “I hung up the phone and told my family. They began screaming and yelling.”

He added: “My wife says, ‘Wait a minute: Could this be a prank by your brother in New York?’”

No, it was quite real. A highlight of the meeting: Giving the president a drawing from Knox’ 11-year-old daughter. He gave the drawing to Trump, who signed it with a smile and returned it to Knox.

Knox called that experience “my favorite part of the entire day.”

“I got to bring that trophy back to my daughter,” he said. “Today, she’s a rock star at her school.”

Knox was impressed with the administration’s willingness to listen to a small business owner like him.

“They wanted to hear from the little guys … these days, as small business goes, so goes the nation,” Knox said.

In discussing health care reform, Knox said Trump told him, “We need a safety net for the most needy.’ We talked about that a little. I said, ‘Mr. President, we absolutely need a safety net. We’re the most generous nation in the world. We’ve always had that safety net.’”

Health insurance reform legislation, which the president has endorsed, is making its way through the House of Representatives. On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office projected that by the year 2026, as many as 24 million fewer Americans would be covered by insurance.

Knox has been active with the Dayton Region Manufacturers Association and its annual trade show for years. He has also been active with the Tri-State Tooling and Manufacturing Association.

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