President Donald Trump announced on Monday he is nominating Alex Azar as his choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Here is the least you need to know.
Azar would replace Tom Price, who resigned on Sept. 29, following an investigation about his use of taxpayer money to fly on private jets. In the days prior to his resignation, Price was facing intense criticism, with Politico reporting that his travel choices cost taxpayers nearly $1 million. Confirmed as HHS Secretary in February 2017, Price served for about seven months.
Several organizations have expressed concern about Azar's former role as president of the pharmaceutical manufacturer Eli Lilly, wondering if his ties to pharma would influence policy. There, Azar had responsibility for the company’s public policy, advocacy and pricing strategies.
According to CNN, while Azar was at Eli Lilly, the company was accused of routinely increasing drug prices while it also lobbied against federal and state attempts to increase price transparency.
But Azar does have experience at HHS. He was formerly the United States Deputy Secretary of HHS during the George W. Bush era.
Brad Woodhouse, Campaign Director of Protect Our Care, a coalition of Democratic organizations, noted in a statement that Azar has been a harsh critic of the Affordable Care Act. “Sadly, we know President Trump will never turn the page, and in Mr. Azar he appears to be looking for a willing partner in his spiteful ongoing campaign to deny affordable health care to millions of Americans,” Woodhouse said.