Trump Picks Former Eli Lilly Drug Executive as Health Secretary

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On Nov. 13, President Trump nominated Alex Azar as secretary of Health and Human Services, a role that was vacated after Tom Price resigned in late September after it was reported that he spent $1 million of taxpayers' dollars on private air travel while on the job.

Shortly after, he joined the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly as a senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications and eventually became president of Lilly USA, according to his LinkedIn. Trump confirmed Azar's nomination on Twitter on Monday morning, writing, "He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!"

"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.

Azar previously worked at the department as deputy secretary under President George W. Bush before joining the pharmaceutical industry.

Azar's Senate confirmation could be hard, with the chamber's 48 Democrats unlikely to approve a candidate who supports dismantling the Affordable Care Act.

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"LeadingAge looks forward to ongoing collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services - including a new secretary - as we work, on behalf of our 6000+ members and partners, to ensure the overall health and wellbeing of older adults across the country", she said in an emailed statement to Home Health Care News.

The Trump administration followed through on a threat to cut off billions of dollars of subsidy payments to insurers, shortened the Obamacare open enrollment period, slashed advertising for the program by 90 percent and cut funding to groups that help people sign up for health insurance.

As secretary, Azar would have broad authority over many aspects of the program. In recent state elections in Virginia, Democrats won a competitive governors race that saw health care emerge as a top issue.

Before his stint at Eli Lilly, Azar served as general counsel and deputy secretary for HHS under President George W. Bush. Early enrollment in Obamacare plans earlier this month was also up considerably compared to past year.

Tom Price and Donald Trump.

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