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5 things physicians should know about Alex Azar


President Donald Trump has nominated the former pharma executive to lead the nation’s healthcare agency.



On November 13, President Donald Trump nominated Alex Azar as the next secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Azar, if confirmed, would succeed Tom Price, MD, who resigned in September after allegedly using private and government planes at taxpayer expense.

Price, a former surgeon, was seen as someone who could advocate for fellow physicians, whereas Azar’s background in healthcare is rooted in law. He is currently founder and chairman of Indianapolis-based Seraphim Strategies, a consulting firm providing insight into the biopharmaceutical and health insurance industries.

Until January, he was president of pharma giant Lilly USA, a subsidiary of Eli Lilly. He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, before attending Yale Law School, where he earned his JD in 1991.

Here are some other things physicians should know about Azar as he awaits hearings in Senate.


5. Biomedicines background

Azar joined Lilly in 2007, serving two years as senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications. In 2009, he was promoted to vice president of managed healthcare services until being named the president of Lilly USA in 2012.

In these roles, Azar addressed neuroscience, cardiovascular health, men’s health, musculoskeletal, autoimmune disease and Alzheimer’s disease for the pharmaceutical company in addition to the sales, marketing, and payer operations.



4. Return to HHS

Azar previously served HHS as general counsel and in 2005 was named deputy secretary. The White House noted that the Senate confirmed him for both appointments by voice vote in its nomination announcement.

“As a former deputy secretary of Health and Human Services and private sector executive, Alex Azar has the qualifications and experience to get results,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a statement.



3. Son of a doctor

Azar does have a direct connection to physicians. His father, Alex Azar, MD, practiced ophthalmology in Salisbury, Maryland, for more than 30 years. While he does not actively see patients, he still mentors physicians and others at Azar Eye Institute.



2. Clear stance on Obamacare

In a May interview with Fox Business Network, Azar said Obamacare was “circling the drain” as part of a “fundamentally broken system.” He said Americans who rely on marketplace plans would be in “a really tough spot” until Congress addresses the laws repeal and replacement with a new program.



1. Payer support

In a statement, Marilyn Tavenner, president and chief executive officer of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry association for payers, said the group welcomes Azar’s nomination. Tavenner served as the former administrator at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“[Azar] has the experience and expertise to combine the best from the private sector with the best of our public programs to make healthcare work for every American,” she said. “We look forward to working with him upon his confirmation to reduce healthcare costs, increase access, and strengthen essential programs that millions of Americans rely on for their coverage and care.”


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