Healthcare Associations Praise Xavier Becerra as Anticipated HHS Secretary Nominee

Dec. 8, 2020
Healthcare associations on Monday praised President-elect Joe Biden’s pending nomination of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be his HHS Secretary, citing Becerra’s advocacy for the ACA

The breaking news on Sunday evening, December 6, that President-elect Joe Biden was preparing to nominate California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be his incoming administration’s new Health and Human Services Secretary, earned praise from major national healthcare associations, praise that focused on Becerra’s advancing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a California congressman in 2010, and his defense of the law as the lead state attorney general among the group of 20 state attorneys general defending the law before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020.

On Monday, the Charlotte-based Premier Inc. released a statement attributed to senior vice president, public affairs Blair Childs: In announcing the selection of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), President-elect Biden has sent a strong signal of the incoming White House’s commitment to defeat COVID-19 and implement reforms in a way that will greatly improve healthcare for all Americans. The Premier healthcare alliance believes Becerra is a strong choice to lead the central agency guiding the COVID-19 response and shaping healthcare policy. While serving on the House Ways and Means Committee, we valued our work with Becerra on legislation to advance value-based care, reduce hospital readmissions while accounting for social determinants of health, reducing disparities of care and improving maternal outcomes, among other issues important to our members and the patients they serve. Because the position of the HHS Secretary is so critical, particularly during the pandemic which requires a robust and nimble response, we encourage the Senate to confirm Becerra as soon as possible.”

And Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, said in a statement that “America’s hospitals and health systems applaud the nomination of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be the next Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. As California Attorney General, he has led the effort to protect the Affordable Care Act and its important protections and coverage for patients. We have also worked with him as a longtime former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, including as a member of the Ways and Means Committee’s health subcommittee. He has been a champion for affordable health access and coverage, which the AHA has supported, and he has consistently made people across America and their health a priority. There are many critical priorities facing the health care field right now, and the patients and communities we care for. Nothing is more critical than the COVID-19 pandemic, and making sure hospitals, health systems and our heroic frontline caregivers have the resources and support they need to care for patients and win the battle against the virus. We also need to make important progress on advancing the transformation of health care, ensuring access to coverage, making health care equitable to all people in America and enhancing the quality of care. The AHA looks forward to working closely with Xavier Becerra and the department to achieve our mutual mission of advancing the health of the patients and communities we are privileged to serve.”

Representing the medical education community, David J. Skorton, M.D., president and CEO of the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges), responded favorably to the naming of Becerra and the other members of the health policy leadership team determined so far by the transition. “The AAMC congratulates Xavier Becerra on his nomination as HHS secretary as well as the other members of the Biden administration’s health care leadership team announced today, including Vivek Murthy, MD; Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH; Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, MHS; Anthony Fauci, MD; Jeff Zients; and, Natalie Quillian,” Dr. Skorton said. “Mr. Becerra’s experience as a champion of the Affordable Care Act will be invaluable to ensuring that more Americans have access to the vital health care they need. We also believe in this team’s collective knowledge and experience to lead efforts in the response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Further, Skorton said, “We are confident that this team’s familiarity with the unique role of academic medicine – comprised of the nation’s medical schools, teaching hospitals, and health systems – will be an asset when it comes to improving the health of people everywhere through patient care, research, education, and community collaboration. The AAMC and its members will continue to use our clinical, scientific, and medical education expertise in support of the new administration and new congress to strengthen the health and well-being of our country. The AAMC looks forward to working with Mr. Becerra, the team announced today, and others appointed in the coming weeks to address the health and well-being of all Americans now and in the future.”

And Chip Kahn, president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals (FAH), which represents the nation’s for-profit hospitals, said in a statement that “The nomination of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be the next Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services is a historic choice at a historic time. He is a superb pick to lead the agency at the center of the fight against COVID-19. As the virus continues to wreak havoc from coast to coast, he will step in with the kind of leadership that on day one will immediately impact the pandemic. During his time in Congress,” Kahn said, “I had opportunities to work with Attorney General Becerra on important health care issues and know that he brings to his new role a keen understanding of, and deep dedication to, Americans' health and health care. He has a proven commitment to assuring all Americans affordable health care coverage as well as an established record of protecting and preserving Medicare for our seniors and disabled.”

What’s more, Kahn said, “We have been encouraged by Becerra’s staunch support of the Affordable Care Act and the protections it provides for millions of Americans - both during his time on the House Ways and Means Committee as well as in his current role as California’s Attorney General. We congratulate Attorney General Becerra on his appointment and look forward to teaming with him as we work to defeat COVID and make sure our hospitals have the necessary resources to continue to care for all patients who come through our doors.”

Twylla Dillon, Executive Director of HealthConnect One, a nationwide women’s health advocacy and support organization based in Chicago, released the following statement: “HealthConnect One praises the selection of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. Becerra has long been a champion of women’s reproductive rights. At a time in which maternal health is facing unparalleled challenges, we need strong leadership from HHS. Our communities are already facing record-high maternal mortality rates, COVID -19 is spreading our health care system to the brink. We look forward to working with President-elect Biden and his choice for HHS Secretary to help mothers build stronger, healthier communities.” HealthConnect One describes itself as “the national leader in advancing equitable, community-based, peer-to-peer support for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and early parenting. Our vision is to see every baby, mother, and family thrive in a healthy community. We work to achieve this vision through an equity-focused approach supporting the first 1000 days for birthing families.”

Meanwhile, major Latino political figures praised the selection as well. Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joaquin Castro lauded the former congressman's selection in a statement Sunday. “In this moment of crisis with COVID-19 devastating Latino communities, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is proud that California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a dedicated public servant, will be nominated by President-Elect Biden to lead to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” Castro stated. “As Attorney General, Becerra led the charge to defend the Affordable Care Act, lower prescription drug costs, and protect immigrant families. Becerra has lived the American Dream and he is a champion for working families, which we saw firsthand during his tenure as a leader in Congress. We welcome the news of Becerra’s nomination, and the CHC is encouraging President-Elect Biden to appoint five Latinos in the Cabinet, including Latinas in prominent positions. We will continue to work in partnership with the Biden-Harris transition team to assemble the most diverse administration in American history."

The Los Angeles Times’s Noam N. Levey, Evan Halper, and Patrick McGreevy wrote, “News of Becerra’s selection drew swift praise from politicians, healthcare leaders and patient advocates. ‘This pandemic has brought a glaring light to the health inequities in our country. … Having an individual who not only has outstanding qualifications, but also understands the needs of minority communities is imperative as our country moves forward in its fight against the pandemic,’ Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) said in a statement. Peter Lee, who heads California’s insurance marketplace, Covered California, lauded Becerra’s work in Congress and as attorney general to defend access to affordable medical care. ‘It’s a great choice,” Lee said. “He is a thoughtful, strategic leader who gets the importance of not only expanding healthcare coverage, but also addressing high costs for patients.’ Becerra’s selection drew criticism from Susan B. Anthony List head Marjorie Dannenfelser, a leading abortion opponent, who labeled the California attorney general ‘an extremist on abortion.’”

But California Governor Gavin Newsom was very enthusiastic. Republic World reported him as saying, "I am very enthusiastic about the pick," Newsom said he "couldn't be more pleased." Newsom will now need to appointment someone to replace Becerra as California Attorney General.

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