New HHS secretary reportedly chosen

In September 2017, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tom Price resigned amid a scandal regarding his use of private, chartered flights for his business travel. His Acting Assistant Secretary, Don Wright, moved into the Secretary position temporarily. On November 13, 2017, President Trump nominated Alex Azar to fill the HHS Secretary position permanently.

Azar is a former pharmaceutical executive, having served as president of the U.S. arm of Eli Lilly & Co., based in Indianapolis, until January 2017. Trump said, in a tweet announcing the nomination, that Azar would be “a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices.”

Azar had also served as the deputy HHS secretary under HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, in President George W. Bush’s administration, and “is known as a detail-oriented bureaucrat who understands how to work the regulatory system to get things done,” according to an NPR report.

NPR also reports that Azar “favors moving authority to the states over Medicaid, the program that provides health care to the poor, elderly and disabled … turning over the program to the states to make them ‘better stewards of the money.’” Selma Verma, who runs the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also favors such a move.

A lawyer, Azar was with Eli Lilly & Co. for five years. He has also served on the board of directors of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a trade group for biotech companies. While he was at Eli Lilly & Co., the price of their insulin drugs Humalog and Humulin increased about 225 percent. It is not clear at this time how Azar’s appointment will affect drug prices across the board.

Elation Health will continue to monitor updates regarding Azar’s nomination and appointment as HHS Secretary, reporting on any changes that may impact independent physicians, their patients, and their practices.