Trump’s Health and Human Services Nominee Has Background in Big Pharma
On Monday, President Trump nominated Alex Azar as secretary of Health and Human Services, a role vacated when Tom Price resigned in late September after reports that he spent taxpayer money on private chartered flights while on the job.
Happy to announce, I am nominating Alex Azar to be the next HHS Secretary. He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 13, 2017
Like more than half of Trump’s nominees, Azar has professional ties to the industry that he will be expected to regulate. He is a former pharmaceutical executive and worked for Eli Lilly for nearly a decade, and became president of Lilly USA in 2012. Azar also served in Health and Human Services during President George W. Bush’s administration, as general counsel and as deputy secretary.
If confirmed, Azar will be tasked with rolling back drug prices, overseeing Medicare and Medicaid programs, and implementing the controversial Affordable Care Act (ACA). Azar is also a vocal critic of the ACA, calling it “fundamentally broken” in an interview with Fox Business in May. He said to CNBC in February: “There will be a piece of legislation passes this year that is called ‘the repeal of Obamacare.’ I don’t know what’s going to be in the substance of it, but there will be a piece of legislation that says that.”
Brad Woodhouse, director of the Protect Our Care Campaign, an Obamacare defense group, blasted Azar’s selection.
“President Trump has nominated in Mr. Azar someone who shares his misguided and factually flawed views on the Affordable Care Act,” Woodhouse said.
“Mr. Azar, a drug industry lobbyist, has been a harsh critic of the ACA and has gone so far as to say that the law is ‘circling the drain’ despite evidence to the contrary. In fact, the ACA is working despite President Trump and former HHS Secretary Tom Price’s repeated efforts to repeal and sabotage it — open enrollment is off to a strong start, plans remain affordable and every county in the country is covered.”
Azar has also said he is against expanding Medicaid reimbursements, which provide insurance to nearly 130 million Americans under the Affordable Care Act, saying that he would prefer to use government money through “private-sector vehicles” in order to provide health care.
The New York Times writes:
In contrast to Mr. Price, an orthopedic surgeon and former Republican congressman, Mr. Azar is a lawyer and health care expert who allies predicted would use his deep knowledge of the federal bureaucracy to advance Mr. Trump’s agenda of undermining President Barack Obama’s health care law. …
“Much of the focus will likely be changing the ideology under which the existing law will be administered,” said Mike Leavitt, a former secretary of health and human services who was Mr. Azar’s boss during the Bush administration. “I’m confident that he would like to see the way the law works change. …”
Critics mocked the selection by a president who promised to drain the Washington “swamp” of lobbyists and has complained about “RIPOFF DRUG PRICES” on Twitter. Representative Peter Welch, Democrat of Vermont, said that “instead of draining the swamp, he has set the fox to guard the henhouse.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also expressed concern about the appointment. “It’s time to turn over a new leaf at HHS,” he said in a statement. “The next secretary must demonstrate a commitment to lowering premiums, and not sabotaging the Affordable Care Act and our health care system with reckless actions that hurt families. I look forward to reviewing Mr. Azar’s nomination.”
NEW: @SenSchumer on HHS nominee Alex Azar: “This confirmation process will be a referendum on the Trump administration’s repeated efforts to sabotage our health care system.” https://t.co/RONZ3QyOnH pic.twitter.com/xx7cHNXsEa
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) November 13, 2017
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