President Trump has nominated Alex Azar, a former Eli Lilly executive, as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
If he’s confirmed, Azar will have broad authority over many of the Trump administration’s major health priorities. He’ll oversee the implementation of Obamacare as well as the mammoth Medicare and Medicaid programs. He’ll be involved in efforts to address the opioids crisis and in decisions about funding for key women’s health and pregnancy prevention initiatives, among a host of other policies.
But it is Azar’s tenure at Lilly and his background in the pharmaceutical world that has generated the most controversy during his confirmation process so far. At a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing last week, his plans to address drug prices animated far more of the lawmakers’ questions than did other issues.
Before the Senate can vote to approve or reject his confirmation, the chamber’s powerful Finance Committee will get its own chance to put him in the spotlight. That meeting hasn’t yet been scheduled.
Readers joined me and STAT’s other D.C. reporters, Lev Facher and Ike Swetlitz, for a chat as we dove into the lingering questions about Azar’s confirmation process and what he might do as secretary, if he’s confirmed.
A transcript is below.