This week, the Senate HELP and Finance committees held confirmation hearings for Biden’s pick for Health and Human Services Secretary, Xavier Becerra. Coverage shows Becerra left no doubt that he is a historic, experienced, well qualified nominee to lead HHS. Becerra has decades of experience and was an architect of the Affordable Care Act when he served in the House. Becerra also led the charge to protect Americans’ health care against constant, baseless Republican attacks as California’s attorney general. Becerra is ready to lead HHS on day one, and he will work with the Biden administration to build on the strong foundation of the Affordable Care Act by lowering health care costs, including prescription drugs, expanding coverage for all Americans, and working to get the pandemic under control.  

Key Stories

Yahoo Finance: Why Biden Chose California’s Attorney General To Be Health And Human Services Secretary. “Becerra served in Congress for 12 terms and was a senior member of the health subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee. Upon being elected California’s attorney general in 2017, he became a key defender of the ACA with his office frequently filing lawsuits (over 100) against the Trump administration, most notably the case of Texas v. California, which challenges the constitutionality of Obamacare.” [Yahoo Finance, 2/25/21

  • Former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Said Becerra “Has Been A Leader On Everything From Expanded Insurance Coverage Access To High-Quality Health Care.” “’He has been a leader on everything from expanded insurance coverage access to high-quality health care,’ Kathleen Sebelius, HHS secretary from 2009 to 2014, told Yahoo Finance. ‘He is one of the foremost experts I would say in the country on the Affordable Care Act, both in its design features and then defending the law in court. But he’s also done lots of important work for children and families and immigrant children, which was one of the areas of great concern when he served in Congress.’” [Yahoo Finance, 2/25/21
  • Larry Levitt, Executive Vice President For Health Care Policy At The Kaiser Family Foundation, Said “It Would Be Hard To Find Anyone In the Country Who Has Been So All-In On Preserving And Expanding The ACA.” “Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health care policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, agreed with the assessment that Becerra’s strength lies in his expertise related to Obamacare. ‘It would be hard to find anyone in the country who has been so all-in on preserving and expanding the ACA,’ Levitt told Yahoo Finance. ‘The setup as attorney general was the chief legal defender of efforts to overturn the ACA and the courts. So he’s well-steeped in all of the intricacies of the law, and it comes from a state that has been one of the most proactive in implementing the ACA from the start. So I think he’s certainly a good choice to reinvigorate the Affordable Care Act.’” [Yahoo Finance, 2/25/21

The Nation (Column): Why Xavier Becerra Is A Smart Pick To Run HHS. “But it was Becerra’s dogged efforts to protect the Affordable Care Act—and to maintain California’s ability to bring millions of previously uninsured residents under its umbrella—that pushed him to the fore when Biden was deciding whom to nominate as his HHS secretary. At a time when conservative states, led by Texas, along with the federal government were urging the US Supreme Court to declare the entire ACA unconstitutional, California—which had used the law and its own insurance exchange to reduce the percentage of its population that was uninsured from upwards of 17 percent to roughly 7 percent—marshaled an alliance of states to aggressively defend the landmark legislation.” [The Nation, 2/26/21

Additional Coverage Highlights Becerra’s Health Care Experience 

CNN: “One Of Becerra’s Highest-Profile Health Care Roles Recently Has Been Chief Defender Of The Affordable Care Act In Court.” “One of Becerra’s highest-profile health care roles recently has been chief defender of the Affordable Care Act in court. He has also battled the health care industry to keep costs down for consumers. In 2018, he filed a lawsuit against Sutter Health, a system of 24 hospitals and more than 12,000 doctors in Northern California, for using anti-competitive practices to consolidate market power, resulting in higher health care prices. The attorney general secured a $575 million settlement that requires Sutter to change some of its practices.” [CNN, 2/23/21

Los Angeles Times: “Fixing Disparate Access To Health Care Was A Signature Issue During [Becerra’s] Two Dozen Years In The House.” “Becerra represented Los Angeles for 24 years in the House and was a senior member of the committee that sets healthcare policy. He was among the small group of lawmakers who helped write the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Fixing disparate access to healthcare was a signature issue during his two dozen years in the House. Abortion rights and child advocacy groups have lined up in support of Becerra, as has the American Medical Assn.” [Los Angeles Times, 2/23/21

Associated Press: “As A Congressman, [Becerra] Played A Behind-The-Scenes Role Steering President Barack Obama’s Health Care Law Through Democratic Divisions In The House.” “Becerra, 63, represented Hispanic neighborhoods of Los Angeles in the U.S. House for more than 20 years before becoming his state’s chief law enforcement officer, succeeding Vice President Kamala Harris after she won election to the Senate. His politics are liberal but his style is low-key and oriented toward problem solving. As a congressman he played a behind-the-scenes role steering President Barack Obama’s health care law through Democratic divisions in the House.”  [Associated Press, 2/23/21

Washington Post: “Running The Nation’s Largest State Justice Department Since 2017, [Becerra] Has Led A Coalition Of Democratic Attorneys General Defending The ACA…” “However, Becerra worked on major health-care legislation, including the ACA, during his long tenure in the House. Running the nation’s largest state justice department since 2017, he has led a coalition of Democratic attorneys general defending the ACA from an attempt, in a case now before the Supreme Court, to invalidate the entire health law. He would be the first Latino HHS secretary.” [Associated Press, 2/23/21