Salisbury’s Alex M. Azar II nominated to Trump cabinet

Local star Alex M. Azar II has been nominated to head the trillion-dollar federal Department of Health & Human Services.

The son of prominent ophthalmologist Dr. Alex Azar of Woodland Road in Salisbury, the Parkside High School graduate has enjoyed a high-profile career both in and out of government.

President Trump made the announcement from the Philippines on Monday. Azar is a former assistant Health Secretary, having served in the George W. Bush administration. He most recently was president of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, but departed that high-paying post last January.

Just 50 years old, the Salisbury native son is the epitome of local-boy-made good. After Parkside, he earned a bachelor’s degree in government and economics from Dartmouth University and a law degree from Yale. He has a long history of working with conservatives, having clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and serving as a lawyer-investigator for Independent Counsel Ken Starr during the Clinton impeachment effort.

He was a deputy to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, a former Wisconsin governor. In fact, HHS secretaries have usually been former governors or members of Congress. Azar has never held elective office but has been heavily involved in federal health policy and the private drug company for nearly two decades.

Azar would be Trump’s second HHS secretary, replacing former Georgia congressman Tom Price, who stepped down his use of private charter planes for government travel created a public controversy.

Tweeting from Manila, Trump said Azar “will be a star for better health care and lower drug prices!”

As a former drug industry leader, Azar’s confirmation could bring tough scrutiny. Americans consistently rank the high cost of prescription drugs as one of their top health care priorities, putting it ahead of divisive issues like repealing “Obamacare” in public opinion polls.

Azar has been a sharp critic of the Affordable Care Act, as has Trump.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

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