Senate narrowly confirms Becerra as HHS secretary

The Senate narrowly confirmed President Joe Biden’s nominee to guide HHS on Thursday, with all however one Republican voting towards Xavier Becerra, California’s lawyer normal.

Becerra’s nomination was probably the most contested out of all of the Biden nominees, with Republicans and conservative teams arguing he’s an extremist that lacks the healthcare expertise needed to guide the company throughout a pandemic.

Democrats and healthcare business teams stood by Becerra, pointing to his expertise as a member of Congress the place he helped write the Reasonably priced Care Act and later as lawyer normal, the place he defended the healthcare regulation in courtroom.

“For my part, AG Becerra proved in his nomination listening to that he’s prepared to guide HHS, and he is aware of well being coverage inside and outside,” stated Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “That should not have been any shock, as a result of he is acquired many years of worthwhile management and coverage expertise that may assist him succeed on this job.”

Becerra can be a supporter of abortion rights, making him a non-starter with most Senate Republicans. He was an ardent opponent of the Trump administration, submitting greater than 100 lawsuits towards the previous president’s regulatory insurance policies, together with a number of involving healthcare and abortion. Republicans additionally famous that Becerra is just not a physician, although most HHS secretaries haven’t been. The final HHS secretary Alex Azar, nominated by President Donald Trump, beforehand had most not too long ago labored for Eli Lilly, one of many world’s largest drug firms.

“As a physician, I am deeply involved President Biden has nominated somebody with no medical or public well being expertise,” stated Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)on the Senate flooring Thursday. “He isn’t a physician, not a scientist, not a public well being official. He is a trial lawyer and a profession politician.”

Becerra’s document as lawyer normal reveals a want to carry highly effective healthcare pursuits accountable, which might put him at odds with the business as HHS secretary.

He filed authorized challenges towards hospital consolidations, which analysis reveals result in larger prices for sufferers, and sued pharmaceutical firms for allegedly fixing the costs of generic medication.

Nonetheless, his nomination was supported by powerhouse teams together with the American Medical Affiliation, the American Hospital Affiliation and America’s Well being Insurance coverage Plans. PhRMA, a commerce group that represents branded drug firms, has remained silent.

As HHS secretary, Becerra will play a big half within the COVID-19 response, together with managing the Supplier Aid Fund, a program handed by Congress that helps suppliers and hospitals climate the monetary difficulties of the pandemic. HHS additionally not too long ago reopened for a particular enrollment interval. Becerra can be prone to pursue laws that tackle well being fairness, given the pandemic’s disproportionate toll on communities of shade.

HHS will even have to implement shock billing laws Congress handed final 12 months. Becerra additionally indicated he’ll strictly implement transparency guidelines issued by the Trump administration that requires hospitals publish the charges they negotiate with insurers.

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