Cummings, Trump find common ground on need for drug pricing reforms

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  • "He knew that this was about saving people's lives," Cummings said
  • Cummings and Trump met Wednesday in the White House

Washington (CNN)Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, who worked for weeks to schedule a meeting with President Donald Trump to discuss the cost of prescription drugs, emerged from the session Wednesday confident his message was received in the Oval Office.

Speaking to reporters in the White House driveway, Cummings said Trump was fully versed on the drug price issue and eager to work toward a solution. He didn't, however, detail any firm assurances on Trump's preferred path forward.
"He knew that this was about saving people's lives and making it possible for people to keep more money in their pocketbooks," said Cummings, a Maryland Democrat. "He was very aware of this prescription drug issue, almost every aspect of it."
    Lowering the costs of drugs has remained a key talking point for Trump in his push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
    On Tuesday, as House Republicans were working to consolidate support for their health care replacement plan, Trump tweeted, "I am working on a new system where there will be competition in the Drug Industry."
    He didn't provide any further details on the issue.
    Cummings, along with Democratic Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont, presented Trump with a legislative proposal Wednesday that would allow the administration to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower prices on drugs purchased under Medicare. A clause in current law prevents the Department of Health and Human Services from interfering in the price paid for drugs.
    Cummings said he left a binder with the legislation at the White House, and was hoping to hear within two weeks whether Trump would be able to support it.
    "It boiled down to saving people's lives and saving money," Cummings said.
    The President had previously called Cummings and asked to meet him after watching the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee discuss drug prices on a morning cable news show.
    Cummings agreed, and their staffs began working out the details. That's why Cummings was surprised when Trump accused him of backing out of the meeting during his recent surprise news conference.
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    "He wanted it, but we called, called, called and I can't make a meeting with him. Every day, I walk and say, 'I would like to meet with him,' because I do want to solve the problem," Trump said of Cummings, adding: "He probably was told by (Senate Minority Leader Chuck) Schumer -- or somebody like that, some other lightweight -- he was probably told, he was probably told, 'Don't meet with Trump. It's bad politics.' "
    Cummings responded at the time in a statement saying: "I have no idea why President Trump would make up a story about me like he did today."
    Whatever confusion exists seemed to be cast aside Wednesday, though Cummings said afterward he spoke to Trump about the President's language on African-American communities.
    "I want you to realize that all African-American communities are not places of depression and where people are being harmed," he said. "When we hear those words about carnage and we are living in depressed situations, I told him it was very hurtful."