Senate confirms HHS secretary nominee Alex Azar

The Senate is set to vote to confirm Alex Azar on Wednesday as the next Department of Health and Human Services secre...

Posted: Jan 24, 2018 8:15 PM
Updated: Jan 24, 2018 8:15 PM

The Senate is set to vote to confirm Alex Azar on Wednesday as the next Department of Health and Human Services secretary.

A top executive with Eli Lilly for nearly nine years, Azar would replace Tom Price, who resigned amid a scandal over his use of private planes while leading the department.

The would-be next secretary of health and human services worked at Eli Lilly

Alex Azar faced questions at his confirmation hearing about rising drug prices

Azar served as general counsel and deputy secretary of the agency under former President George W. Bush. He then joined Eli Lilly, becoming president of Lilly USA in 2012. As part of his role there, Azar was on the board of directors of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a trade group. He left Lilly USA and BIO in January and now runs a consulting firm.

During his nomination hearings before the Senate Finance and Health committees, he drew a barrage of criticism from Democrats, especially liberals, who argued that drug prices rose under his watch at Eli Lilly and said he's too closely tied to the industry he needs to oversee.

"I am alarmed he might not stand up to the pharmaceutical industry," said Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington on the Senate floor Wednesday morning. "And I am alarmed he may not stand up to President Trump's agenda driven by sabotage and ideology."

Also, she said she was concerned that that Azar may not stand up for women and families based on his past statements and her discussions with him.

Azar will lead the department that oversees the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, a law that has faced constant criticism from congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump. The Republican tax overhaul that Trump signed into law last year repeals an Obamacare mandate that individuals have health insurance and the recent deal to reopen the government included some delays of Obamacare-related taxes and fees.

HHS has already taken several steps that are expected to limit participation in Obamacare exchanges in 2018, including slashing the open enrollment period in half and cutting advertising and support for it.

During a committee hearing in November, Azar told lawmakers he'd work on lowering the cost of prescription medicine.

"Drug prices are too high," he said, noting his experience implementing the Medicare Part D drug plan under Bush. "The President has made this clear. So have I."

He also said in the confirmation hearing, he wants to increase generic and branded competition, as well as stop drug companies from abusing the patent system to prevent generic competitors. Also, he would look into why Americans pay more for drugs than European or Japanese consumers.

When Trump unveiled his pick for health secretary on Twitter in November, he called Azar "a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!"

The President campaigned on lowering drug prices, but has yet to take any real steps on the issue.

Azar also wants to use Medicare's power to shift how the nation pays for health care, from reimbursing for procedures to paying for outcomes. Finally, he said the nation must "tackle the scourge of the opioid epidemic that is destroying so many individuals, families and communities."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Azar on the Senate floor Wednesday, calling him "the right man for the job."

"For all Americans he will work to expand access to high-quality, affordable health care options," McConnell said. "His distinguished record -- including prior HHS service as deputy secretary and private-sector work -- shows he is the right man for the job."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 16769

Reported Deaths: 803
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds110426
Madison77829
Lauderdale76569
Neshoba73945
Jones70933
Scott66312
Forrest60039
DeSoto59310
Rankin4639
Leake45512
Holmes44431
Copiah3344
Jackson31415
Attala31218
Yazoo2985
Newton2924
Oktibbeha28314
Leflore28238
Lincoln28131
Wayne2803
Monroe26925
Harrison2687
Lamar2525
Lowndes2529
Pearl River21231
Pike20411
Adams20416
Warren19910
Washington1998
Lee1978
Noxubee1956
Covington1832
Bolivar16911
Jasper1684
Clarke15619
Smith15611
Lafayette1564
Kemper15611
Chickasaw14314
Coahoma1324
Clay1254
Winston1241
Carroll11911
Marion1169
Claiborne1165
Yalobusha1116
Grenada1104
Lawrence1071
Simpson1050
Sunflower963
Tate931
Hancock9012
Marshall893
Union897
Itawamba897
Webster885
Panola873
Wilkinson859
Montgomery841
Jefferson Davis823
Tippah7611
Calhoun684
Walthall670
Amite651
Humphreys647
Tunica583
Prentiss533
Choctaw522
Perry513
Pontotoc493
Jefferson421
Tishomingo360
Stone320
Quitman320
Tallahatchie311
Greene301
George302
Franklin292
Alcorn191
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 19387

Reported Deaths: 676
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2341123
Jefferson1927105
Montgomery190544
Tuscaloosa85316
Marshall7149
Franklin5939
Lee56334
Shelby53619
Tallapoosa43566
Butler43121
Walker3973
Elmore38110
Chambers36326
Madison3594
Unassigned3144
Morgan3141
Baldwin2969
Dallas2963
Lowndes26912
Etowah26512
DeKalb2603
Autauga2485
Coffee2401
Sumter2369
Houston2275
Pike2231
Bullock2197
Colbert1972
Hale19210
Russell1870
Barbour1831
Marengo1796
Lauderdale1752
Calhoun1693
Cullman1631
Wilcox1587
Choctaw15310
Clarke1492
St. Clair1372
Randolph1288
Dale1250
Marion12511
Talladega1215
Pickens1215
Limestone1100
Chilton1081
Greene955
Macon944
Winston920
Jackson863
Henry842
Covington831
Crenshaw803
Escambia793
Bibb761
Washington746
Blount641
Lawrence510
Monroe492
Geneva450
Perry430
Conecuh421
Coosa401
Cherokee383
Clay282
Lamar280
Fayette160
Cleburne151
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