This is wrong guy for Health chief

David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Watching Alex Azar, President Trump's nominee for Health secretary, testify before the Senate Finance Committee this week, I realized he's more impressive than I'd previously thought.

Unlike Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Azar isn't alarmingly ignorant about the department he'd run. Unlike Scott Pruitt, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he's apparently not determined to tear down the very things he's supposed to safeguard.

But Azar is still the wrong guy for the job.

This week's hearing, one of a series of Azar's encounters with senators on his road to leadership of the Department of Health and Human Services, began with the committee's Republican chairman, Orrin G. Hatch, making clear that conservatives liked what they saw.

"If confirmed, Mr. Azar's work will impact the lives of every single American. Now that's a big job," Hatch declared. "It requires knowledge, experience and most important strong leadership. Fortunately, our nominee brings all of this to the table."

Well, OK then.

I'll acknowledge that Azar came off in his more than two hours of testimony as bright, articulate and well-versed in the arcana of healthcare -- a refreshing change from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' frightening lack of awareness about public education, which didn't deter GOP senators from putting her in charge.

The problem with Azar isn't his smarts. It's the fact that he's coming from a gig as head of U.S. operations for Indianapolis drugmaker Eli Lilly & Co., making him a likely advocate for the pharmaceutical industry rather than patients.

The problem with Azar is that earlier in his career, he landed a plum job at HHS after being active in former President George W. Bush's campaign.

Then, after gaining some healthcare regulatory experience, he jumped ship to become a drug industry lobbyist.


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