Senate votes to confirm Azar as health secretary

Marie Harrington
January 26, 2018

Azar's confirmation ends Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan's time at the department following former Secretary Tom Price's resignation after a private plane scandal.

At his confirmation hearing in early January, Senate Democrats probed Azar about his time at Eli Lilly, criticizing the nominee for drug price hikes that took place while he was working there.

HHS Secretary nominee Alex Azar testifies before Senate on November 29.

As the head of HHS, Azar will be responsible for overseeing $1.13 trillion in department spending and supervising research and administering health programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. Senator Ron Wyden of OR, the senior Democrat on the Finance Committee, said Mr. Azar told the panel that "he had never - not even one time - signed off on a decrease in the price of a medicine".

Azar worked most recently as the president of Lilly USA, the US affiliate of drug giant Eli Lilly and Company.

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. He previously served under former President George W. Bush as deputy secretary for the health and human services department so he is significantly familiar with the agency and pro-life issues that are important there.

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"The Trump administration's determination to destroy the Affordable Care Act through executive action has destabilized our health care system and threatened coverage for millions", Sen. "I am alarmed that he might not stand up to President Trump's agenda driven by sabotage and ideology". Rand Paul, R-Ky., was the lone Republican to vote against Mr. Azar's nomination.

"We have to balance a woman's choice of insurance with the conscience of their employers", Azar responded.

"We should reward doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies for making people well, not for the number of procedures done, hospitalizations required or drugs prescribed", Carper said in a statement.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., praised Azar as intelligent and competent, noting he will be a "solid" leader for HHS.

Azar is taking the helm at HHS well into the administration's efforts to hobble the Affordable Care Act.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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