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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.

Cases: 255125

Reported Deaths: 5574
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17257180
Hinds16331322
Harrison13567194
Rankin10804212
Jackson10453184
Lee8864141
Madison8314164
Jones6434112
Forrest6009120
Lauderdale5902186
Lowndes5405116
Lafayette499193
Lamar488565
Washington4803124
Bolivar3997109
Oktibbeha395381
Panola372379
Pontotoc367853
Monroe3558105
Warren354898
Union345960
Marshall344066
Neshoba3396152
Pearl River3301100
Leflore3041107
Lincoln298085
Sunflower286671
Hancock274459
Tate273162
Alcorn265453
Itawamba263759
Pike263778
Scott248046
Yazoo247056
Prentiss246552
Tippah243050
Copiah242749
Coahoma241054
Simpson236467
Leake231765
Grenada219471
Covington214672
Marion213073
Adams207070
Wayne202932
Winston201666
George199839
Attala194259
Newton193444
Tishomingo189361
Chickasaw185044
Jasper172736
Holmes168767
Clay159833
Stone144721
Tallahatchie141934
Clarke139862
Calhoun136521
Smith121424
Yalobusha117834
Walthall112336
Noxubee110822
Greene110429
Montgomery109834
Carroll104821
Lawrence102917
Perry102631
Amite98426
Webster92824
Tunica87321
Claiborne86625
Jefferson Davis85326
Humphreys83124
Benton82023
Kemper77620
Quitman6968
Franklin66715
Choctaw60913
Wilkinson58725
Jefferson54919
Sharkey43117
Issaquena1596
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 426543

Reported Deaths: 6126
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson62752920
Mobile30551554
Madison27303186
Tuscaloosa20835267
Montgomery19192305
Shelby18693114
Baldwin16513183
Lee12603101
Morgan12321113
Etowah11805168
Calhoun11206200
Marshall10236107
Houston8681148
Cullman8094105
Limestone807474
Elmore7923101
DeKalb771597
Lauderdale763183
St. Clair7599120
Talladega6224108
Walker5930174
Jackson583741
Colbert535473
Blount532083
Autauga522755
Coffee446256
Dale399781
Franklin368148
Chilton337865
Russell335910
Covington330168
Escambia321342
Dallas305196
Chambers288669
Clarke283133
Tallapoosa2630107
Pike251329
Marion247350
Lawrence245247
Winston229035
Bibb217047
Geneva203335
Marengo200829
Pickens196931
Hale177442
Barbour173836
Fayette171226
Butler170758
Cherokee160930
Henry155021
Monroe147317
Randolph141535
Washington138326
Clay127045
Crenshaw120244
Cleburne118423
Lamar118419
Macon116835
Lowndes111535
Wilcox103621
Bullock99728
Perry98219
Conecuh95120
Sumter89526
Greene76223
Coosa60515
Choctaw51524
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