WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump announced on Monday on Twitter his nomination of Alex Azar, a former executive of the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co., to be his new health and human services secretary, a position left vacant when Tom Price resigned late last September.
“Happy to announce, I am nominating Alex Azar to be the next HHS Secretary,” Trump said in a tweet from Manila, the last stop on a long Asian tour that included visits to Japan, South Korea, China and Vietnam.
Azar “will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!” Trump said.
Azar, 50, was the chief legal adviser and also undersecretary of the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) between 2005-2007 under former President George W. Bush, after which he entered the private sector to become president of Lilly USA, the largest affiliate of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co.
If he is confirmed by the US Senate, Azar’s main task as new HHS secretary will be to supervise and promote the government’s plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) healthcare legislation, generally known as Obamacare.
Repealing Obamacare was one of Trump’s campaign promises, but Republicans, despite controlling both houses of Congress, have as yet been unable in several attempts to reach an agreement on a new healthcare law.
Interim leadership of the Health and Human Services Department since last September has been in the hands of acting HHS Secretary Don J. Wright, following Tom Price’s resignation.
Price bowed out as Trump was already weighing his dismissal, upon learning he used private charter aircraft for official trips that ran up costs of more than $300,000, according to an investigation by the daily Politico.
Trump called Price “a very good man,” but admitted he didn’t like the image created by the use of these private charter flights when the government was trying to save money with, for example, the renegotiation of trade deals with other countries.