High drug prices are sure to come up again. So is Obamacare.
President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is likely to face questions on those subjects and others when he faces senators at his second hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
The hearing will start at 10 a.m. Eastern time. More information about the hearing, including a link to live video of the hearing, is available here.
Until about a year ago, nominee Alex Azar was an executive at drugmaker Eli Lilly & Co., a role that’s fueled lawmakers’ concerns that he might not be willing to take a tough stance against the pharmaceutical industry on drug prices. Azar told senators at a November hearing that he wants to end “gaming” by drugmakers that allows them to extend monopolies and keep prices high, an idea backed by both Republicans and Democrats.
His commitment to a crackdown may receive extra scrutiny during the Senate Finance Committee hearing after Politico reported that Lilly gained extra time on its exclusive sales rights to the erection drug Cialis by studying studying its effects on a rare muscular disorder in children.
Senate Republicans are also divided over continuing their largely failed effort to gut the Affordable Care Act. As part of the recent tax overhaul, they were able to overturn the requirement that everyone have health care coverage, although most of Obamacare remains intact. Both parties are likely to want to know where Azar stands on that debate.
Congress also must reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) after it expired at the end of September, or else the program’s funding will run out. In a short-term spending bill passed last month, lawmakers provided $2.85 billion that’s supposed to fund the program for a few more months. The short-term patch has left states wondering if longer-term funds are coming for the program, which covers 9 million low-income kids.