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More Than 60 Groups Urge Senators to Reject Azar to Run HHS

Jan. 3, 2018

More Than 60 Groups Urge Senators to Reject Azar to Run HHS

Azar Would Be Detrimental to Americans’ Access to Health Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. Saying that it would be detrimental to Americans for Alex Azar to be secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), more than 60 organizations today urged senators not to confirm him.

In a letter, the groups – representing patients, health care providers, public health experts, women, people of color, workers, consumers and people of faith – said they are deeply concerned by statements made by Azar as well as his record at the pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly and Company.

“We believe that elevating Mr. Azar to Secretary of HHS would be detrimental to Americans’ access to quality, affordable health care across the country,” the letter said.

The groups oppose Azar because:

• He has denounced the Affordable Care Act (ACA) even though it expanded health insurance coverage and access to health care services for millions of Americans.
• Azar has spoken in favor of converting Medicaid funding into block grants, which would end guaranteed coverage and cap federal funding of program costs without regard for program needs, thereby threatening the services on which millions of Americans depend.
• Azar has said that he does not believe the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA has been successful. However, the evidence shows the contrary; states that expanded their Medicaid programs under the ACA have experienced large reductions in uninsured rates and have seen reduced disparities in coverage by income, age and race/ethnicity.
• Azar will not commit to supporting mandatory no-cost-sharing contraceptive coverage by insurers. Access to contraception without charge ensures that costs do not prevent access to important preventative care, reducing unintended pregnancies that can lead to adverse maternal and child health outcomes.
• Azar’s record at Eli Lilly raises doubts about his willingness and ability to serve the needs of U.S. patients and consumers. While Azar was president of Lilly USA, Eli Lilly’s U.S. affiliate, its insulin skyrocketed from $74 to $269. As a result, patients have skipped refills, injected expired insulin and starved themselves in ineffective attempts to control blood sugar levels.
• Eli Lilly is facing multiple class-action lawsuits alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the Sherman Antitrust Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and numerous state fraud, unfair trade practices and consumer protection laws related to the company raising insulin prices in lockstep with Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Eli Lilly is also facing a suit brought by the federal government and 31 states alleging False Claims Act violations involving a scheme to boost insulin sales, as well as investigations by at least five state attorneys general.

“At a time when our country is facing a crisis of access to affordable medicines, we need an untainted and credible advocate for patients and our health care system,” the groups wrote. “A former prescription drug company executive with a history of spiking the prices of lifesaving medicines simply is unqualified to address the needs of our national health care system. … the health care of all Americans requires a [S]ecretary of HHS who puts the public above profits and who champions evidence-based approaches over ideology.”

See a complete list of signers.