Capitol Correspondence - 01.29.18

Alex Azar Confirmed as Secretary of HHS, Names Chief of Staff

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The Senate confirmed Alex Azar as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by a 55 to 43 vote. 6 Democratic Senators and Senator Angus King (I-ME) crossed party lines to vote for him based on his qualifications, despite not agreeing with all his positions. Senator Paul (R-KY) was the only Republican to vote against Mr. Azar based on disagreeing with his stance on drug re-importation. ANCOR members might find Politico’s podcast on Mr. Azar’s priorities of interest – click here to listen, the implications start at 4:41 minute mark. Overall, the podcast finds that there might not be large changes from HHS’ current policies under Mr. Azar’s tenure given his conservative views, but that the big change might be obtaining the return of policy career professionals who had left HHS under Secretary Price. The podcast also notes Mr. Azar’s ability to work behind the scenes with Democratic lawmakers.

HHS has confirmed that Mr. Azar has picked his chief of staff, former HHS official Peter Urbanowicz. Mr Urbanowicz served alongside Mr. Azar under President George W. Bush. Most recently Mr. Urbanowicz worked as a Managing Director at Alvarez & Marsal. Politico has highlighted a series of audio interviews produced by Alvarez & Marsal in which Mr, Urbanowicz participated, including one in which he discussed his concerns that the ACA would increase federal spending, as well as his concerns with some GOP proposals rolling back coverage.