Cummings: Trump commits to strong push for Medicare drug price negotiation

President Trump is vowing to join forces with Democrats to grant the federal government more power when it comes to negotiating drug prices, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said Wednesday after meeting with the president.
Such a push sets the stage for a clash between Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill, who have long opposed the Democrats’ efforts to allow Medicare to haggle directly with pharmaceutical companies for lower prescription drug prices — a power barred under current law. 
But Cummings, after sitting down with Trump for roughly an hour in the White House, said the president not only gave his enthusiastic support for Medicare negotiation, he’s also pushing to grant the federal government even broader negotiating powers. 
{mosads}“The president was clearly very much aware what was going on. He understood the issue very well,” Cummings told reporters afterwards. “And he felt it was important that we address this issue head-on.”
Cummings, who was joined by Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), said the Democrats warned Trump that Republicans will almost certainly oppose the change. Trump, Cummings said, was not deterred. 
“We told him that he’s going to have a difficult time with his own party, that was going to be the most difficult thing, and he said he really didn’t care,” Cummings said. “He said that that [this was] something very important to him … he agreed that the people in the Rust Belt, just like the people in Baltimore, need relief.” 
“He felt that they have been treated very unfairly by the drug companies and he said that it was something that he really wants to do,” Cummings added. “He said that he would join us in pushing a bill through.”
Trump’s meeting with the Democrats came after weeks of back-and-forth entreaties by both parties, which largely took place on cable news shows. The Democrats were joined by Redonda G. Miller, president of The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Tom Price, the head of Trump’s Health and Human Services Department, was also present.
Cummings said he and Welch presented the president with their Medicare negotiation proposal, which they intend to introduce in the next few weeks. But Trump, he said, wants to unleash the government’s negotiating powers even beyond what the Democrats have proposed.
“I got the main commitment that I wanted,” Cummings said. “[But] his proposal would go a little bit further than ours, in that he wants government-wide [drug negotiations].” 
Price, a physician and former House lawmaker who headed the House Budget Committee, has opposed granting those negotiating powers, along with most other Republicans on Capitol Hill. But Trump, according to Cummings, asked Price to move on the issue.
“He instructed Secretary Price to take a look at our proposal and … that he would definitely be working with us to get involved and to encourage people, on his side, to help out,” Cummings said. 
“We told the president that … we weren’t expecting any major support from the Republicans,” Cummings added. “And the president basically said this is something that’s important to him. And he looked at Price and he said, ‘I want you to get this done. Period.’”
Cummings said Trump is also voicing his support for another drug policy reform: the end of the current prohibition on Americans buying their prescription drugs abroad. Cummings has sponsored such a bill, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), but Republicans are largely opposed. 
“He brought that up and said he had absolutely no problem with pushing that kind of legislation,” Cummings said, adding that he was “kind of surprised” Trump was endorsing the idea. “He said that as long as the safety considerations were in the legislation that he could be supportive … He volunteered that.”
Cummings said the conversation did not touch on the Republicans’ current proposal to repeal ObamaCare, an effort Trump strongly backs, nor did they talk specifics about the potential vehicle for a drug negotiation bill. With GOP leaders controlling both chambers of Congress, it would take a strong — and likely public — push from Trump to bring such a bill to the floor.
Cummings said the president is vowing to provide it.
“He said, ‘Cummings, [I’ll do] whatever I have to do to help encourage the members of my party to help out,’” Cummings said. “He said, ‘I’m going to work with you’ — those were his exact words — ‘to make this happen.’”
The White House released a statement after the meeting, which provided few details but amplified Trump’s past promises to take action to rein in prescription drug costs.
“President Trump expressed his desire to work with Congressman Cummings in a bipartisan fashion to ensure prescription drug prices are more affordable for all Americans, especially those who need lifesaving prescription medications,” the statement reads. “Reforming the Food and Drug Administration and reducing the regulatory burdens on drug manufacturers so as to enhance competition will help accomplish those goals.”
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