The position of United States Secretary of Health and Human Services has been vacant since the resignation of Tom Price at the end of September. A month and a half later, President Donald Trump nominated another person for the position, nominating former pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar, who is on record saying that the “Affordable Care Act has failed.”
Democrats were not happy about this nomination, and they complained about it for weeks.However, almost two months later, the ‘crucial’ position of Secretary of Health and Human Services is finally being filled, as Alex Azar, in a party-line vote, has finally been approved.
Democrats are still unhappy about this appointment, but there is little that they can do, and their disapproval of Alex Azar is hard to square with their claim that the absence of an actual Secretary of Health and Human Services is an impediment to proper governance.
Alex Azar has a long history in the medical world. After attaining a Juris Doctorate at Yale, as well as serving on the executive committee of the Harvard Law Review, he spent almost a decade and a half working as a lawyer.
In 2001, he entered government service and was confirmed to be the General Counsel for the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
As the General Counsel for the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Azar played a central role in many emergency situations, including responding to the anthrax attacks of 2001, finding a vaccine for smallpox when bioterrorism became a concern and dealing with the overblown SARS outbreak fears and various influenza outbreaks.
In 2005, he was confirmed to be the United States Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, twice unanimously confirmed by the Senate to be the person working directly underneath the position he has now been confirmed for.
As he worked under Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt, Azar was responsible for helping to implement government policy, improving government response, and streamlining government processes.
After he resigned in 2007 as George W. Bush’s Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, Azar took a job with Eli Lilly, working as their top lobbyist and their spokesman.
However, after Barack Obama became President, he left the position, as Eli Lilly wanted a Democrat to be in the position so they would have some rapport with President Obama.
Shortly thereafter, Azar became the Vice President of Eli Lilly’s U.S. Managed Healthcare Services organization, a group within Eli Lilly that was dedicated to finding ways to lower the cost of healthcare.
In 2012, he was promoted to President of Lilly USA, LLC, and became responsible for the entire of Lilly’s operations in the United States. He served in that position until he resigned from the company in January 2017.
Though Azar has experience in both the private and public sector of the industry of health and human services, one would think he would be a shoe-in for the position.
However, Democrats did not care for his policy positions and took every opportunity they could to represent them as absurd or outlandish.
The Democrats did not care to hear that Azar would be concentrating on tackling Obamacare as it continues to crumble, nor did they care to hear that he believed that the “Affordable Care Act has failed millions of Americans who have lost the plans they liked and the doctors they liked.”
In particular, Virginia Senator and Hillary Clinton’s Vice President nominee Tim Kaine claimed that Azar was dead-set on “sabotaging” the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.
According to the Senator, “The Trump administration’s determination to destroy the Affordable Care Act through executive action has destabilized our health care system and threatened coverage for millions,” ignoring that the only thing keeping the Affordable Care Act afloat were executive actions that were likely illegal.
Azar was not incapable of defending his position, though, nor was he without supporters. When pressed on Obamacare, he stated that “what I do not support is forcing 6.7 million Americans to pay $3 billion of penalties to not buy something they don’t want to buy through a mandate upon them, 90 percent of whom make $75,000 a year or less.”
Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch remembered Azar from his days working with the Bush administration, stating that Azar was and is “one of the best public servants that I’ve seen in the whole time I’ve been here.”
Whether Democrats like him or not, Alex Azar is now the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and he has a wealth of experience to draw on. Hopefully, he will be able to improve the health care and insurance system in the United States without repeating the mistakes of the Obama administration.