Alex Azar named new United States health chief

HHS Secretary nominee Alex Azar testifies before Senate on Nov. 29. Credit C-Span

HHS Secretary nominee Alex Azar testifies before Senate on Nov. 29. Credit C-Span

The Senate confirmed Alex Azar on Wednesday as the next Department of Health and Human Services secretary. Azar succeeds Tom Price, who resigned amid questions about his travel.

Secretary Azar's experience with hospice, referenced in his nomination hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on November 29 of past year, will prove an invaluable asset as he leads the department whose mission is to enhance and protect the well-being of all Americans.

"Alex has a well-earned reputation for effective and thoughtful leadership - something I can attest to from our time together at HHS - and his experience in both the private and public sectors will serve him well managing the department's complex bureaucracy". 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".

In 2017, the Yale Law grad ended a five-year stint as president of the US division of pharmaceuticals giant Eli Lilly and Co.

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Many Democrats opposed the nomination due to Azar's ties to the pharmaceutical industry. "I am alarmed that he might not stand up to President Trump's agenda driven by sabotage and ideology". 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.

This month, the Trump Administration rescinded guidance from the Obama Administration that made it harder for states to defund Planned Parenthood and similar abortion providers, and President Trump became the first sitting president to address the annual March for Life, an anti-abortion rights rally. "Mr. Azar, however, has been a harsh critic of the ACA and once called it a 'fundamentally broken system.' As physicians, we seek to preserve gains brought by the ACA for Americans, and we are concerned Mr. Azar does not has those same interests in mind". Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said on the Senate floor.

"In his conversations with me, Mr. Azar said he shared one of my main goals of transforming our current health care system, which can often lead to mistreatment and overuse, to one that rewards health care providers based on the quality of care patients receive", Carper said in a statement.

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