The Charlotte, N.C.-based Premier, Inc., has written to two senators on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee showing support for Alex Azar to become Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
In November, President Donald Trump announced that Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical industry executive at Eli Lilly and Company was his nomination to be the next HHS Secretary. Azar had a hearing in front of the HELP Committee in late November in which he said that lowering drug prices would be one of his top priorities if confirmed, and will now face the Senate Finance Committee tomorrow morning.
Premier, a healthcare improvement company with an alliance of approximately 3,900 U.S. hospitals and health systems and 150,000 other providers and organizations, said last week in a letter to U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR)—both on the HELP committee—“We have confidence that Mr. Azar will lead HHS in implementing the laws focused on the important work of achieving a more accountable and value-driven healthcare system. During Mr. Azar’s previous tenure at HHS, Premier worked with him and CMS to design and implement the Hospital Quality Improvement Demonstration (HQID). The first national project of its kind, HQID was designed to determine if economic incentives drove improved quality of inpatient care. We learned that rewarding performance through aligned incentives drove faster improvement, which provided proof to the concept and ultimately led to the enactment of value-based purchasing legislation. Mr. Azar was also instrumental in working with Premier members to test ACO [accountable care organizations] and bundled payment models while at HHS,” wrote Susan D. DeVore President and CEO, Premier.
Indeed, Azar has experience working in the federal government. He served as HHS General Counsel in the George W. Bush administration, and following Bush’s first term, Azar was asked to stay at HHS, serving as Deputy Secretary of HHS, the number two official and chief operating officer of the department. He worked in that role until February 2007.
If he’s confirmed, Azar will replace Tom Price, M.D., who resigned on Sept. 29 following an investigation about his use of private jets for official business. Confirmed as HHS Secretary in February, Price only served that role for about seven months.