The Senate confirmed Alex Azar on Wednesday to be Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) in a 55-43 vote. NACDS followed the confirmation process closely and is pleased that this week, in advance of his confirmation, Azar responded to a question on provider status submitted for the record earlier by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA).

The senators asked Azar whether he would support bipartisan legislation, the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act, which recognizes pharmacists as healthcare providers in underserved areas and would be key in lowering healthcare costs, improving patient access and increasing healthcare quality. Azar responded to the senators, “If confirmed, I look forward to learning more about your legislation and working with you to increase access to quality healthcare, especially in rural and underserved parts of the country.”

NACDS commends the senators for posing the question and for putting this vital legislation on the new Secretary’s radar before he assumes his important role in leading HHS.

During the confirmation hearings, Azar emphasized that he would focus on issues such as high drug prices, access and affordability of healthcare services, advancing value-based payment provisions in Medicare, and combating the opioid epidemic.

Azar served as HHS general counsel for four years from 2001 to 2005, and as deputy secretary from 2005 to 2007 under President George W. Bush. Subsequently, Azar served as president of Eli Lilly’s U.S. business unit, Lilly USA, from January 2012 to January 2017. He is currently the chairman and founder of Seraphim Strategies, a consulting firm based in Indianapolis.