Health Reform WK-EDGE Azar fields questions about drug prices, Medicaid during Senate nom hearing
Friday, January 19, 2018

Azar fields questions about drug prices, Medicaid during Senate nom hearing

By Anthony H. Nguyen, J.D.

Pressed by Senate Democrats, Alex Azar, nominated by the Trump administration to be its second HHS Secretary, agreed that prescription drug costs were too high at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. Azar, however, pushed back at the notion that the government should implement broad measures to regulate the prices.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) noted in opening remarks that while at HHS, Azar played key roles in implementing new policies, including Medicare Part D and the Medicare Advantage program. Addressing Senate Democrats, Hatch stated Azar’s experience at Lilly and dealing with the policies and regulations that come from government agencies was advantageous because it would give him important insights regarding the impact of policies designed and implemented by HHS.

Policies. A former CEO of Eli Lilly, Azar noted that he did not think the government should directly negotiate prices with drug companies for the drugs sold through Medicare, citing that he did not see any cost savings for such a move and that some drugs could have access limited. The Trump administration has periodically supported the idea of direct negotiation.

In addition to drug pricing questions, Azar tackled the issue of Medicaid as an entitlement program. Azar offered support for the block grant system advocated by Republicans, as well as the requirement that Medicaid recipients work or prepare for employment. He also favored a Trump administration and Labor Department proposal to make it easier for individuals and small businesses to buy health plans that do not meet the Affordable Care Act’s requirements for covered benefits and other consumer protections.

Azar’s nomination was met favorably from health care organizations, including the American Medical Association. However public watchdog group Public Citizen mailed a letter to Senators noting Azar’s criticism of the ACA and his work at Lilly as reasons to reject his nomination.

Legislation: CongressionalHearings NewsFeed AccessNews AgencyNews DrugNews GeneralNews HealthInsuranceExchangeNews MedicaidNews MedicaidExpansionNews MedicarePartANews MedicarePartBNews MedicarePartCNews MedicarePartDNews FedTracker HealthCare LifeSciences

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