Senate votes new US Health secretary

Updated: 25 January, 2018 13:40 IST | ANI | Washington

The United States Senate voted to confirm new US health secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday, with the final vote count at 55-43

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The United States Senate voted to confirm new US health secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday, with the final vote count at 55-43. This comes after the post of Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was lying vacant for the last four months. Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive, replaces Tom Price, who resigned in September last year after he was found to be wasting taxpayer's money of more than US$1 million by undertaking repeated trips on private and military jets, The Hill reported.

Democrats have slammed Azar over rising drug prices that doubled during his tenure (2012-2017) at Eli Lilly, a major pharmaceutical company. They have also expressed some concerns about ObamaCare, the signature healthcare law of former President Barack Obama. The ObamaCare was repealed from the law by Trump last year.

The prices of the prescription drugs are likely to be discussed under Azar's tenure. Even President Trump has said that drug companies were 'getting away with murder.' Under former President George W. Bush, Azar served HHS as general counsel from 2001 to 2005. He was also the deputy secretary for two years under Secretary Mike Leavitt and oversaw the health department's regulatory process.

'He understands the process and he knows the levers and how you make it work and where the potential roadblocks are. So far a repeal bill has not occurred and they're going to need to make their imprint on existing laws through replacing the ideology underpinning it,' Leavitt told last year. Senator Orrin Hatch said that Azar had a good experience in leading the HHS, which oversees everything from Medicare and Medicaid to drug approvals and disease control.

'Mr. Azar spent several years as a senior official at HHS, holding key positions overseeing Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage. He also led HHS's responses to the anthrax attacks shortly after 9/11, the SARS and monkeypox crises, Hurricane Katrina, and many others,' Hatch said in a statement. 'Clearly, Mr. Azar has seen both the good and bad at HHS and knows how to manage them. I don't think there is anyone here, even on the other side of the aisle, who would contest that,' he added.

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First Published: 25 January, 2018 13:30 IST

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