Trump chooses drug executive as health secretary

ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Donald Trump named former Eli Lilly & Co. executive Alex Azar to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services after the prior secretary resigned amid blowback over his taxpayer-funded private jet travel.

Azar worked at the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly for ten years until leaving this past January.

"ElevatingHome looks forward to working with Mr. Azar and sharing with him the many ways that home-based care is a vital patient-preferred, lower cost component of high-quality health care delivery models", the group said in an emailed statement.

If he's confirmed, Azar would replace Dr. Tom Price, who resigned from HHS in September after a Politico investigation found that he had taken private charter aircraft on work-related trips at times when cheaper commercial flights were available. Trump said in a tweet Monday.

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"Happy to announce, I am nominating Alex Azar to be the next HHS Secretary", Trump wrote on Twitter.

Leavitt says Azar is likely to use that knowledge to alter the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, to make it more friendly to Republican ideals.

The Azar nomination is unusual because HHS secretaries have tended to come from the ranks of elected officials such as governors - not industries regulated by the department. President Trump said after his election and before his inauguration that he wants the government to work to lower drug prices and that he wants the Medicare program to use its buying power to negotiate better prices. Azar also worked in HHS during President George W. Bush's administration, serving as HHS's general counsel from 2001 and 2005 and becoming deputy secretary until 2008. Early enrollment in Obamacare plans earlier this month was also up considerably compared to previous year.

If confirmed, Alex Azar would oversee a $1 trillion department responsible for major health insurance programs, including "Obamacare", as well as medical research, food and drug safety, and public health. A lawyer by training, Azar previously clerked for Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

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