Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Update

HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D. resigned in late September following revelations of his considerable domestic and international air travel aboard privately chartered flights and military aircraft. There is also a belief that the President had lost some confidence in his Secretary as a consequence of the failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Alex Azar, a former executive of Eli Lilly was nominated by President Trump to be Secretary of the (HHS). Azar would replace former Secretary Tom Price who resigned amid an ethics scandal.

Azar is an attorney and a pharmaceutical industry veteran. He has a reputation for being intelligent, practical, and non-ideological. He has industry and government experience from his work at Lilly where he ultimately became president of the company’s U.S. operations. Prior to that, he served as HHS general counsel and then deputy secretary during his six years with the Bush Administration.

Azar has close political ties with Republican lawmakers and observers believe that during his time with Lilly (and Indiana-based company), he developed a relationship with Vice President Pence.
As HHS Secretary, Azar will be leading the Administration’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and, among other things, address drug pricing and reimbursement. Those issues are potential political challenges for Azar and will, no doubt, be discussed during his confirmation hearings where Democrats can be expected to challenge, in particular, his ability or willingness to address drug prices or other pharmaceutical company issues.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee held the first hearing on the confirmation for Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) nominee Alex Azar on November 29. Notably, only the Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction to vote on the nomination and advance it for consideration by the full Senate. Senate Finance has yet to schedule a confirmation hearing.

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