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Alexander to Azar: Your Broad Experience is an Obvious Asset in Leading HHS

Says Azar—previously confirmed twice by the Senate—is an “excellent nominee” to help tackle nation’s opioid crisis, address skyrocketing health insurance premiums, and take advantage of new authorities in the 21st Century Cures Act

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 29, 2017 – At a confirmation hearing today for Alex Azar, President Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said that Azar’s “broad experience is a principal asset to leading the Department.”

“You have served in the judicial branch as a law clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia and you know the executive branch, having been HHS General Counsel and Deputy Secretary,” Alexander said. “And you know the private sector. You spent a decade in a leadership position at one of the country’s major pharmaceutical companies, so you know the system of how drugs get from the manufacturer to patients.”

Alexander continued: “With all of these perspectives, you are ready to take advantage of the law Leader McConnell called, the ‘most important piece of legislation,’ the 21stCentury Cures Act, which gave new, broad powers to FDA and NIH, and included the first major reorganization of mental health programs in a decade, as well as significant new funding for the opioid crisis.”

“You will also oversee the Affordable Care Act. The nine million people who purchase insurance in the individual market who do not qualify for a subsidy are really getting hammered by skyrocketing prices – in Tennessee, premiums have increased 176 percent in four years, and an additional 58 percent this year. Both Congress and the Administration need to act to provide relief for these Americans.”

“Senator Murray and I worked together on an agreement, co-sponsored by 11 other Republicans and 11 other Democrats, which the Congressional Budget Office says will prevent a 25 percent price increase in premiums by 2020 by paying cost sharing subsidies, decrease the federal dollars spent on ACA premiums subsides, and as a result, lower the deficit. The agreement would also give states the authority to use the innovation waiver already in the law to find other ways to lower premiums. Yesterday, President Trump said he supported the Alexander-Murray agreement becoming law by the end of the year and Senator Schumer has said all 48 Democratic senators support it.”

“You will also be coordinating a department wide effort to combat the opioid crisis that is ravaging this country. Some are now saying we need an opioid czar, and I hope you will join me in advising the president that this is a terrible idea. The Federal government does not need a new czar. Once confirmed, you need to be the one to take charge of leading the federal government response and letting us know how to help.”

While the Senate health committee holds a courtesy hearing on the nomination of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Finance Committee receives his paperwork and will vote on his nomination.

Alexander’s full prepared remarks are available here