Alex Azar, a former executive of Eli Lilly was nominated by President Trump today to be Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Azar served several years on the board of directors of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a drug industry lobbying group, and earlier was general counsel and deputy secretary for Health and Human Services under former Republican President George W. Bush.
Azar, who served as the head of Eli Lilly's USA operations for five years until he stepped down from the position in January, previously served as deputy secretary of HHS under the George W. Bush administration. "He also had complete responsibility for the administrative rulemaking process at HHS which will be used extensively in changing the existing law", said Leavitt.
The Trump administration has sought to repeal and then to weaken the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature health care legislation.
Trump, who is in the Philippines on a diplomatic trip, announced his intention to nominate Azar on Twitter by saying he would "be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices".
Healthcare industry associations the American Hospital Association and HIMSS, meanwhile, highlighted Azar's experience in healthcare and IT, working with both HHS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, as qualifying him for the position. Over the course of the past year, HHS has dramatically cut outreach and advertising funding for open enrollment under Obamacare, and President Trump ended cost-sharing subsidies to help fund insurance for low-income individuals. He now holds a Director position on the the Board for HMS Holdings Corp., a publicly traded company that offers services meant to coordinate healthcare claims payments. In May, he told Fox News that, in his opinion, Obamacare was "circling the drain" and should be stopped.
But Sanders was skeptical that Azar is the right choice for the top HHS post, especially as the United States aims to lower skyrocketing prescription drug prices.
"I'm very proud of him", Dr. Azar said, according to Delmarva Now.
Other Democrats were more cautious in their response to Trump's announcement, with Senator Chuck Schumer calling for the health agency to turn over a new leaf with Azar.
Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Azar has qualifications and experience to get results and he will quickly schedule a hearing on his nomination.