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Your source for the latest updates from Capitol Hill. We translate policy into practice so you can learn how policy trends will affect your work and how best to prepare.

Shelley Starkey

Nominee for HHS Secretary Testifies Before Senate HELP Committee

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On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on the nomination of Alex Azar to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Azar expressed his priorities if confirmed as Secretary, which include tackling the opioid epidemic, and was met with mixed feelings from committee members. Azar will sit for another hearing in front of the Senate Finance Committee, which will vote on advancing his nomination for a final confirmation vote on the Senate floor.


During the hearing, Azar explained that he was intent on delivering on the mission of HHS to enhance and protect the health and well-being of every American through innovation. In his written testimony, Azar highlighted four areas he believed needed critical attention, including high drug prices, affordable health care, Medicare reform, and the opioid epidemic.


Questioning his strategy to address the opioid crisis, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) asked if Azar would work to supply additional funding for this issue. In response, Azar said he would commit to reevaluating the resources available across the government, and collaborating with Congress to supply states with the tools they need.

Throughout the hearing, Azar touted his experience within HHS during the George W. Bush Administration, as well as expertise gained during his time in the private sector with pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. While Republicans on the committee generally expressed their thoughts that these experiences made him uniquely positioned to further the goals of HHS, Democrats conveyed their concerns that Azar would fail to fully implement the Affordable Care Act.

Additionally, Senators on both sides of the aisle communicated concerns that Azar’s background in the pharmaceutical industry would temper his leadership of HHS, by supporting the financial interests of the pharmaceutical industry at the expense of patient care.

To view the full hearing, visit the HELP Committee’s website here. Stay tuned to Capitol Connector for continued updates on Azar’s nomination.