Azar: Deja vu all over again

Jack Bernard is a retired SVP with a national firm. He is also the former Chair of the Jasper County Commission and Republican Party.

“Nominating Alexander Azar to run Health and Human Services is like pinning a sheriff’s badge on Billy the Kid” – Richard Eskow

I am more than skeptical about Trump’s nomination of Alex Azar as the head of DHHS, which administers Medicare and Medicaid as well as Obamacare (ACA). Azar is the former President of Eli Lilly and was there when the company tripled the price of its insulin, a drug first developed in 1921. The current CEO of Lilly is a big supporter of the unpopular Trump tax “reform” plan, which guts Obamacare via eliminating the individual mandate while also disproportionately cutting taxes for the wealthy.

I hear the Trump supporters saying “give Trump a chance.” We already gave him a chance and look what happened with Tom Price. This is deja vu all over again!

Much has been said about former Rep. Price of Atlanta, Trump’s former Secretary of DHHS. Before he was confirmed, both The Wall Street Journal and CNN covered his dubious healthcare stock transactions and obvious conflicts of interest, all of which have enriched him personally.

It was no surprise that he abused his travel, to the tune of a million dollars, via private planes. Was this the way to “drain the swamp” by appointing a Congressional insider with questionable character?

Is appointing someone like Azar, a former pharmaceutical industry lobbyist who represented one of the most greedy, exploitative, uncompetitive, disliked industries in America, how Trump is intending to drain it? Azar made $2 million in his last year at Lilly, plus he got more than that in severance and other pay when he left.

Price portrayed himself as the defender of the little man, protecting patient rights. Trump bought the act.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Price is descended from a line of wealthy physicians and is worth $13 million himself, some of it due to those shady stock market deals. He has no understanding of the working man/woman.

For example, before his nomination, we knew he wanted to take away Medicaid and Obamacare as we know them. The extremely popular Medicare program would be abolished if Price and Ryan had their way, becoming instead a voucher program, forcing high costs onto the elderly. Is Azar, the former lobbyist, supportive of this approach in that in a Fox interview he called Obamacare “fundamentally broken”?

Seniors are our sickest citizens. Insurance companies, driven only by profits (I worked for Humana), rate this group actuarially different than younger, healthier groups. In other words, the elderly can expect premiums to be five times what they are for the healthiest Americans (the suggested cap under some GOP proposals).

Do Americans want this type of privatization? Ask a senior who actually understands the true situation rather than the purposefully misleading and confusing privatization rhetoric coming out of Price and Ryan.

Making Medicaid a block grant sounds fine from a fiscal standpoint, but what is real world the impact of this action? In order to balance state budgets, Medicaid would be slashed by hundreds of millions, kicking our poorest citizens off insurance and into ERs as indigents, causing financial pain for our hospitals.

The GOP wants the ACA repealed, but has little to replace it for the 22 million covered. Those booted off are told to start savings accounts on their own. Once again, for the sickest citizens, health insurance policies will be unaffordable, per every study of the impact of GOPs proposals.

When Price and Ryan talked about full access, they were not talking about affordability. They were just saying, some sort of an ill-conceived, fragmented policy will be available, even if at an astronomical price. Again, is Azar in favor of the failed GOP reform effort in that he said Obamacare is “circling the drain”?

Price is like many privileged people who were born on third base and believe that they hit a triple. Their view is that if you are in a ditch, often due to circumstances beyond your control, just get yourself out.

Not only would Price “pull the rug out from under you,” he will burn down your house as well. Avar may be worth even more than Price, with the Office of Government Ethics estimating his net worth at up to $20 million. Is he any different than Price?

From all indications, Azar, a critic of Obamacare and a former law clerk for Justice Scalia, simply continues along these lines. He is obviously not what we need in DHHS.

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