Trump’s HHS Pick Shows Admin Still Focused On ‘Repeal And Replace’

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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President Donald Trump announced Monday he is nominating former Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar to replace Tom Price as head of the organization, a move that could signal the White House is not giving up on pushing health care reform.

Azar’s nomination could shift the administration toward relying more on executive-level agencies to chip away at Obamacare. The White House has already signaled its willingness to employ this approach, with its announcement in late October that the government will stop paying Obamacare subsidies to insurance companies.

Azar will come in right as the agency is set to deal with nearly a dozen rules and Obamacare state waiver requests that will likely set the stage for the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) debate going into 2018.

His previous experience sets him up to be one of the most prepared incoming secretary’s (if his appointment is upheld) in the agency’s history and an asset to the administration’s health care agenda.

Azar has already spent roughly seven years working at HHS. He was behind the rollout of Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage and was at the helm of former President George W. Bush’s response to the 9/11 attacks.

After leaving the Bush administration, Azar went on to work at Eli Lilly and Company, an American-based pharmaceutical company, from June 2007 to January 2017. During his time at Eli Lilly, Azar served as the senior vice president corporate affairs and communications, the vice president of managed health care services and the president of company.

Azar has some insights into how the medical industry works and how the industry cuts deals with health care regulators giving his position as the president of a large pharmaceutical company. His experience could not only prove helpful in repealing Obamacare, but could prove beneficial in the administration’s campaign to lower prescription drug costs.

Trump and Republicans have had a rather tough time with Obamacare repeal in 2017.

House Republicans passed a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare in early May, but Senate colleagues have yet to successfully push a piece of legislation through Congress, despite trying a handful of times. The president backed the Senate’s proposal to repeal Obamacare’s individual mandate through tax reform Monday, but the measure is not included in either the House or Senate versions of tax reform.

There still may be some legislative hope for Republicans to repeal Obamacare and possibly more so with the help of Azar, a Yale Law School graduate characterized by those who know him as pragmatist and highly competent.

GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana are reportedly making changes to a health care reform bill.

Graham told The Daily Caller News Foundation in September after his first effort failed that he expects the bill to make a resurgence in early 2018, likely around Easter.

“What I would expect is that we take a clear shot at taxes. We’ll use the time to come up with a better process for health care,” Graham told TheDCNF. “We will have a debate worthy of a great country and when taxes are over early next year, which is what I envision, we’ll go back to repealing and replacing Obamacare.”

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