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HHS Secretary Nominee Becerra Could Face Tough Audience At Senate Confirmation Hearings

HHS Secretary Nominee Becerra Could Face Tough Audience At Senate Confirmation Hearings

Source : Medtech Insight

Two Senate committees will review the qualifications of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to become the next Secretary of Health and Human Services during confirmation hearings next Tuesday and Wednesday. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will question Becerra on 23 February beginning at 10 a.m., while the Senate Finance Committee will probe the AG about his readiness to lead HHS on the afternoon of 24 February.

Becerra, whose parents came from Mexico, was the first of his family to graduate from college or law school. He began his career as an attorney working on cases involving individuals with mental disorders for the Legal Assistance Corporation of central Massachusetts.

Bernard Nash, who serves as co-chair of law firm Cozen O’Connor’s state attorneys general practice, described Becerra as a very experienced and knowledgeable leader on health insurance issues due to his time on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid policies. Becerra served in the House of Representatives from 1993 to 2017, and was the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus from 2013 to the end of his time in office.

While on the House Ways & Means Panel, Becerra played a major role in developing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), former Obama administration HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on 12 February. Sebelius also called Becerra a “highly qualified nominee” for the post. ()

“He’s done a terrific job of leading the defense of [ACA] and the vital protections it affords millions of people,” Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, D-MA, said on 7 December, the day President Joe Biden announced Becerra’s nomination. Neal also praised Becerra’s anticipated approaches on crucial issues such as support of health care workers, COVID-19 vaccine distribution, and equity in the US health care system.

Becerra will cause “a socialist overhaul of our health care system that would bankrupt our country and ruin quality of care for all Americans.” – Mike Braun

However, Becerra’s pro-choice leanings and liberal policies have led more conservative policymakers to oppose his nomination. For example, conservative GOP Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana said in a 28 January opinion piece in The Hill that Becerra’s desire to enact a Medicare For All bill would cause “a socialist overhaul of our health care system that would bankrupt our country and ruin quality of care for all Americans.” Braun will get a chance to grill Becerra on Tuesday as a member of the Senate HELP committee.

Additionally, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, recently critiqued the California AG. on the Senate floor, calling him a famously partisan abortion advocate who is unqualified for the HHS Secretary post, the LA Times reported.

Nonetheless, leaders in the medtech industry say they can work with Becerra.

“Attorney General Becerra has a long history of working with various stakeholders in the health care ecosystem,” Medical Device Manufacturers Association President Mark Leahey said in response to Becerra’s nomination. ()

And on the same day, AdvaMed CEO Scott Whitaker said he believed that Becerra would help the device industry save lives throughout the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

By Sue Darcey