House Dems sound alarm about Trump health nominee

Camille Fine

A group of House Democrats want the Senate Finance Committee to question President Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services secretary about high drug prices at his former employer, Eli Lilly.

In a letter to Finance Committee leaders, led by Texas Reps. Beto O’Rourke and Lloyd Doggett, the Democrats said Alex Azar should also be pressed on his commitment to uphold the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare.

Azar is scheduled to appear before the Senate Finance Committee for a confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

This won’t be the first time in the hot seat for Azar, who faced the Senate Health Committee last month in what was billed as a courtesy hearing. But this time he’ll be before the Finance Committee, which will make the decision about whether to send his nomination to the Senate floor.

Democrats are expected to question Azar on how he would lower the cost of prescription drugs, given his background as a former pharmaceutical executive. They also want to hear his views on a variety of other issues, including ObamaCare, block grants for Medicaid and women’s health.

Azar worked at the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly for nearly a decade, serving most recently as the president of Lilly USA, a post he left last January. The company reportedly substantially increased the price of insulin while Azar was there, from $123 per vial in 2012 to $255 per vial in 2017.

In their letter, the House lawmakers said “Azar’s history as a top executive at Eli Lilly when drug prices rose exorbitantly, along with his recent statements about the ACA, demonstrate that he may not meet” the highest standards needed to be the leader of the country’s health-care system.

The House members posed a number of questions they hoped Azar would answer about the types of reforms he wants to see from the drug industry, as well as his ideas for lowering drug prices and increasing industry transparency.

The letter also said Azar has made “troubling” statements about ObamaCare in the past. They urged Finance Committee members to press him on whether he will “defend and implement the Affordable Care Act as the law of the land.”

O’Rourke is running for the Senate in Texas and is expected to be the Democratic nominee to take on Sen. Ted Cruz (R) in November.

Tags Beto O'Rourke Donald Trump Lloyd Doggett Ted Cruz
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