Pres. Donald Trump Friday said federal Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar would be unveiling a new health care plan, NPR reported.
Azar, nominated by Trump in 2017, was confirmed as HHS chief in January of 2018, the vote in Congress was 55 to 43.
A former Eli Lilly and Co. high-ranking executive, Azar worked for Pres. George W. Bush as a top official at HHS.
When Trump tapped Azar, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. said his nomination would be a “referendum on the Trump administration’s repeated efforts to sabotage our health care system and raise premiums on millions of Americans.”
Friday Trump said Azar is bringing forward a health care plan with “details to come.”
Here’s what you need to know about Azar:
1. Azar, a Yale Law School Grad Clerked for SCOTUS Scalia, Worked for Ken Starr & is Worth $8.7 Million
Azar, a Lebanese American, was born in 1967 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania son of a doctor. His grandfather immigrated from Lebanon. Azar attended Dartmouth and earned his JD from Yale Law in 1991. Azar clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and in the early 1990s, worked as an associate on the Kenneth Starr independent counsel Whitewater investigation.
According to the 22-page federal public financial disclosure report filed for Azar, he is worth in excess of $8.7 million largely earned from working for Eli Lilly and from his lobbying for Big Pharma.
2. During the George W. Bush Administration, Azar Was HHS General Counsel & Oversaw the FDA While it Was Investigating Eli Lilly. Azar Left HHS & Took a Job as Lilly Lobbyist
Azar’s role, in part, from 2005 until 2007, was to oversee the the Food and Drug Administration’s chief counsel’s office and, he was charged with running all HHS operations and food and drug regulations. On his watch, a federal criminal and civil investigation was underway into pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly’s promotion of the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa to be used “off label” for myriad conditions in which the medication was not indicated.
In 2009, the Department of Justice announced “American pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company today agreed to plead guilty and pay $1.415 billion for promoting its drug Zyprexa for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Justice announced today. This resolution includes a criminal fine of $515 million, the largest ever in a health care case, and the largest criminal fine for an individual corporation ever imposed in a United States criminal prosecution of any kind. Eli Lilly will also pay up to $800 million in a civil settlement with the federal government and the states.”
It was a big fine, but Eli Lilly sold some $30 billion worth of Zyprexa.
While the investigation under his watch was still underway, Azar left the government and took a job with the drug company.
3. While at Eli Lilly, Azar Was Lobbyist & Then Ran All US Operations & Drug Prices Rose Under His Watch
Azar left the Bush administration to become the lead lobbyist and a senior vice president for communications. It was reported Azar was moved from the role of lobbyist when Democrat Barack Obama was elected president as Azar was a staunch Republican and the company believed a Democrat lobbyist might fare better with the Obama Administration, USA Today reported.
Azar was reassigned as Lilly’s Vice President of U.S. Managed Healthcare Services. In 2012, he was named president of Lilly USA, the Big Pharma’s biggest division which had him in charge of all U.S. operations.
Bloomberg reported that under Azar’s rule, drug prices increased steadily and that his nomination, and eventual confirmation, to head HHS would be a boon for drug manufacturers.
Azar served on the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a Big Pharma lobbying group. He left Lilly and the board in 2017 and then was nominated by Trump to run HHS.
4. Azar, a Fierce ACA Critic, is Pro-Life & Wants to See Healthcare for the ‘Unborn’
During his confirmation hearings, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray questioned Azar about his views on employers being allowed to deny conception coverage for women.
Azar said, “…I do believe we have to balance of course a woman’s choice of insurance that she would want with the conscience of employers and others.”
Later, it was reported that Azar provided written answers to Murray’s queries about an HHS statement that life begins at conetons. Azar replied: “The mission of HHS is to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans, and this includes the unborn.”
Abortion rights opponents praised the Azar nomination and confirmation to run HHS.
CNBC reported that Azar, a fierce critic of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, also known as ‘Obamacare’) said in 2017 Obamacare would be repealed. “… don’t know what’s going to be in the substance of it, but there will be a piece of legislation that says that.”
Trump said Friday Azar would be unveiling a new health plan.
5. Azar is a Married Father of Two Who Lives in Indianapolis. While Awaiting his Nomination by Trump, Azar Ran a Pharma Lobbying Business
Azar is married to Jennifer Azar and the couple have two children. They live in Indianapolis.
According to his LinkedIn profile, for the months in between his leaving Lilly and being nominated by Trump, he ran a pharmaceutical consulting and lobby business.
Seraphim Strategies that “provides strategic consulting and counsel on the biopharmaceutical and health insurance industries, including bio-pharmaceutical sales, marketing, pricing, reimbursement, access, and distribution, as well as federal and state healthcare policy.”
Azar has served on myriad boards related to healthcare and specifically pharmaceutical groups. His LinkedIn shows his interests which include many pharmaceutical companies and Big Pharma executives.