In the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee this week, President Trump’s choice to lead Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar, appeared in the front of the committee regarding his nomination. Many, including the NRLN with an Action Alert to members of Congress, have questioned whether he is the right choice for the job since he ran Lily USA for years during a time when drug prices skyrocketed.
During his testimony, however, he said one of his top priorities is to lower the cost of prescription drugs, which he says are too high. When asked whether he would support importation of drugs from other countries, he didn't really answer the question, but said he would have to ensure the drugs that were imported were safe. Democrats on the committee joked that his running HHS is like a fox guarding the chicken house. A few Democrats have already said they will vote no on his confirmation.
The tax reform bill continues to be the focus for members of Congress and the Administration. As we know, the House passed its version before Thanksgiving. The Senate has begun floor debate on its bill this week and hopes to vote on it before the end of the week. The bill’s exact provisions are still very fluid and how it will impact retirees depends on where you live and which deductions you use. One concern is the elimination of the medical expense deduction. If the bill passes in the Senate, the House and Senate bill will have to be reconciled before going to the President for signature. We continue to track this bill very closely.
When I last wrote to you, we were encouraged to learn that Senator Grassley was actively working to attach two prescription drug bills that the NRLN supports to the Children’s Health Insurance Program reauthorization bill that seemed to be on the fast track. The bill has stalled in the Senate, but we continue to watch this bill and look for other opportunities to move legislation important to the NRLN members.
One last thing to note, Preston Rutledge, who was Utah Senator Orrin Hatch’s tax and benefits counsel, has been nominated by President Trump to be the Department of Labor (DOL) Assistant Secretary for the Employee Benefits Security Administration. He will be filling Phyllis Borzi's position.