Trump taps drug executive as health secretary
President Donald Trump named former Eli Lilly executive Alex Azar to lead the Department of Health and Human Services after agency’s past chief resigned amid blowback over his taxpayerfunded private jet travel.
“Happy to announce, I am nominating Alex Azar to be the next HHS Secretary. He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!” Trump tweeted Monday.
If confirmed, Azar will take over the administration’s management of the Affordable Care Act — also called “Obamacare.” Trump and congressional Republicans have called to repeal the health law, and the administration has taken steps to destabilize it, such as cutting funding for some programs and refusing to pay subsidies to health insurers.
Trump has been highly critical of the drug industry, saying that pharmaceutical companies are “getting away with murder” and threatening to use the federal government’s buying power to bring down drug prices.
Before his time at Lilly, Azar served as deputy secretary at HHS under President George W. Bush. Azar, who ran Indianapolisbased Lilly’s U.S. operations until earlier this year, has been an advocate for more state flexibility under Obamacare.
That matches up with what Republicans have pushed for, such as in a seemingly stalled bipartisan bill to fund insurer subsidies that help lower-income people with health costs.
As secretary, Azar would have broad authority over the program. “I’m not one to say many good things about Obamacare, but one of the nice things in it is it does give a tremendous amount authority to the secretary,” Azar said during an interview with Bloomberg TV in June. “There are still changes that can be made to make it work a little better than it has been.”
Trump’s first HHS secretary, Tom Price, resigned in September after his extensive use of private and military jets at taxpayer expense was revealed. Azar must be approved by the Senate.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, who heads the Senate Finance Committe, called on Trump’s pick to help “right the wrongs of this deeply flawed law.”