Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price resigned in late September after reports that he spent hundreds of thousands of federal government dollars chartering private planes. President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Price, Alex Azar II, faced the first of his confirmation hearings yesterday (November 29) with the Senate Committe on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
Azar is the grandson of a Lebanese immigrant, a lawyer and former HHS deputy secretary during the George W. Bush administration. Here are three things you need to know about Azar, who The Washington Post says is likely to be confirmed pending a confirmation hearing by the Senate Finance Committee.
1. He has major ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
Azar served as general cousel for HHS from 2001-2005, followed by two years as deputy secretary during the George W. Bush administration. But after leaving the agency in 2007, he has held several top roles at Eli Lilly, including president of Lilly USA in 2012. The drug company was criticized for raising the cost of insulin and other drugs under his leadership. Last year, Azar earned more than $2 million dollars in compensation from the company. Despite his history, Azar said in the hearing that he’d like to focus on lowering drug prices.
2. He’s against the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Azar went on Fox Business in May and said the ACA is "circling the drain." In the hearing yesterday he was pressed on whether he would implement the ACA, and said, "If it remains the law, my goal is to implement it in a way that leads to affordable insurance, leads to choice of insurance, insurance that leads to real access…and insurance that has the benefits that the people want, not what we say in D.C. for them.”
3. He’s anti-choice.
According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, Azar has been an active donor to political campaigns and causes. He contributed a total of $102,938 since 1999, including many donations to support the campaigns of anti-choice politicians. Azar also thanked an audience at the Islamic Medical Association of North America in 2006, for its "emphasis on protecting the health and well-being of the unborn."