Nov. 28, 2017 – The Coalition for Healthcare Communication supports Alex Azar to become the next Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, according to a Nov. 28 letter from the CHC to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP), and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member on that committee, which will hold a courtesy hearing on Azar’s nomination on Nov. 29 before it heads to the House Finance Committee for confirmation. [Editor’s note: The CHC sent a similar letter to the House Finance Committee as well.]
Azar is a former pharmaceutical executive who worked for more than a decade for Eli Lilly and Co. and served as a top health official during the George W. Bush administration. President Donald J. Trump announced his pick of Azar to head up HHS on Nov. 13; the cabinet position was vacated by Tom Price, who resigned in late September following reports that he chartered private planes at taxpayers’ expense.
“We need a leader at HHS who is seasoned in the healthcare field and is prepared to address complex issues,” wrote CHC Executive Director John Kamp in the letter. “Alex Azar has the knowledge and experience needed at HHS during this challenging time.”
Kamp noted that because Azar has served at HHS before – as Deputy Secretary and General Counsel – “he knows and respects the permanent staff in the huge department and he understands the issues that have been identified as critical to HHS: the fate of the Affordable Care Act, drug pricing, opioids and many others.”
Although some may have concerns about Azar’s industry experience, Kamp stated in the letter, these concerns should be alleviated by the example of Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who brings both agency and industry experience to his role as FDA Commissioner. “Azar understands our issues and his knowledge and perspective will be a valuable asset to HHS,” Kamp said.