Alex Azar's 4 biggest priorities as HHS secretary

Alex Azar, President Donald Trump's nominee for HHS secretary, appeared before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee Wednesday for his first Congressional hearing on the road to confirmation.

Although the Senate Finance Committee actually votes on Mr. Azar's nomination, the HELP hearing served as a courtesy.

Here are four issues Mr. Azar said would be his top priorities as HHS secretary, if his nomination is confirmed.

1. Although Mr. Azar said the government shouldn't interfere with drug pricing while he was CEO of Eli Lilly, he listed lowering drug prices as a top priority.

"Through my experience [as deputy secretary at HHS] helping to implement [Medicare] part D, and with my extensive knowledge of how insurers, manufacturers, pharmacies and government programs work together, I believe I can bring the skills and experiences to the table that can help us address these issues while still encouraging discovery so Americans can have access to high-quality care."

2. Mr. Azar highlighted the importance of ensuring affordable and available healthcare, and seemed to place blame on the ACA for people's lack of coverage.

"We must address these challenges for those who have coverage, and for those who have been pushed out or left out of the insurance market by the ACA."

3. Although former HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD, was not a fan of the transition to value-based care, Mr. Azar lists it as a top priority.    

"We must better channel the power of health [IT] and leverage what is best working in our programs and in the private competitive marketplace to ensure the individual patient is at the center of decision making and that his or her needs are being met with greater transparency and accountability."

4. Acting HHS secretary Eric Hargan declared the opioid crisis a "public health emergency" in October, and Mr. Azar said he would continue to try and fight the opioid epidemic.

"We need aggressive prevention, education, regulatory and enforcement efforts to stop over prescribing and over use of these legal and illegal drugs, and we need compassionate treatment for those suffering from dependence and addiction."

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