- Public Citizen led a group of more than 60 organizations Wednesday in a letter urging senators to reject President Donald Trump’s HHS Secretary nominee Alex Azar ahead of his Senate Finance Committee hearing Tuesday.
- The groups argue Azar’s stances on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid expansion and prescription drug costs are incompatible with being a “credible advocate for patients.”
- But opposition to the nomination is relatively muted and Azar appears on track to be considered by the full Senate. Even if all Democrats on the Finance Committee vote against the nomination, it will still have enough support to proceed.
Azar named tackling high drug costs as his top priority when he testified before the Senate HELP Committee on Nov. 29, pointing to increasing generic drug competition to branded drugs and preventing patent evergreening as solutions.
But the groups opposing the nomination, which also include AFL-CIO, NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Alliance for Retired Americans, argue Azar’s time at Eli Lilly shows he is unqualified to effectively advocate for access to affordable medicines.
“During Mr. Azar’s time at Eli Lilly, the company more than tripled the price of insulin from $74 to $269, with much of the increase occurring during Mr. Azar’s tenure as President of Lilly USA, Eli Lilly’s U.S. affiliate,” the groups wrote.
Democrats are likely to grill Azar on his plan to address high drug prices and how he would oversee the ACA. But Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) signaled when he announcing the hearing that Azar has his full support.
“Mr. Azar has demonstrated that he has what it takes to lead the Department of Health and Human Services and that he will tackle the challenges facing the American healthcare system head-on,” Hatch said in a statement.
During his hearing before the HELP Committee, Azar voiced support for Medicare shifting further toward paying for health and outcomes rather than paying for procedures. He also slammed the implementation of EHRs, saying more needs to be done to improve interoperability to reduce burdens on physicians.