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 9:15 PM
Updated: Jan 24, 2018 9:15 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."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Reported Deaths: 5305
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion40796844
Lake25864448
Allen17025289
Elkhart16389209
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Hamilton12225163
Vanderburgh9218112
Tippecanoe807627
Porter770176
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Monroe519846
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Howard321375
Warrick309072
Floyd301177
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Wayne292261
Cass291231
Marshall283642
Grant254147
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Henry234136
Boone231754
Dubois229230
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Jackson200033
Morgan196043
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Scott97918
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Washington6966
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 351419

Reported Deaths: 5996
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin48389665
Cuyahoga34096734
Hamilton28674371
Montgomery19082225
Butler14138144
Lucas13446406
Summit12431309
Stark8122197
Warren770375
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Lake625466
Lorain590297
Clermont541946
Delaware521435
Licking506275
Fairfield505163
Trumbull4969144
Greene489662
Clark486664
Marion451451
Allen446384
Wood4243107
Medina413354
Miami398565
Pickaway387948
Columbiana328496
Portage323171
Wayne303593
Tuscarawas299557
Richland293929
Mercer281237
Ross234559
Hancock225336
Muskingum223610
Auglaize218925
Putnam218649
Darke208058
Erie205565
Ashtabula204753
Geauga189451
Scioto186713
Lawrence181336
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Union17928
Shelby176715
Seneca165018
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Madison151018
Sandusky144427
Preble143821
Huron139218
Holmes137039
Defiance131121
Knox118818
Logan118313
Fulton117225
Ottawa114730
Crawford114216
Washington112427
Clinton100314
Williams9938
Jefferson9894
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Brown9324
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