President Trump has picked a former top pharmaceutical and government executive to be his Health and Human Services secretary. If confirmed by the Senate, Alex Azar will oversee a $1 trillion department responsible for major health insurance programs, medical research, food and drug safety, and public health. The Azar nomination is unusual in the sense that HHS secretaries have tended to come from the ranks of elected officials such as governors—not industries regulated by the department, per the AP. Azar, 50, a lawyer by training, has spent the last 10 years with pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, rising to president of its key US affiliate before leaving in January to start his own consulting firm. He's seen as an expert on government health-care regulation.
"He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices," Trump tweeted Monday morning. Azar will surely face questions about his pharmaceutical background at his confirmation hearing, but Politico notes that he has previous experience at the HHS, having once served as the agency's deputy secretary and as its general counsel before his decade with Eli Lilly. The Washington Post, which sees this as a "pragmatic" choice, notes that Azar is no fan of ObamaCare. He previously suggested that it could be reined in, if Congress fails to repeal it. "I'm not one to say many good things about ObamaCare, but one of the nice things in it is it does give tremendous amount of authority to the secretary of HHS,” he told Bloomberg TV in June. (Azar would replace Tom Price, who resigned over questions about his travel expenses.)