President-elect Joe Biden has selected California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be his health secretary, putting a defender of the Affordable Care Act in a leading role to oversee his administration’s coronavirus response, according to an Associated Press article.
Also, Biden chose Harvard infectious disease expert, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And he announced a new advisory role for Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, the article added.
If confirmed by the Senate, Becerra, will be the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services, a $1 trillion-plus agency with 80,000 employees and a portfolio that includes drugs and vaccines, leading-edge medical research and health insurance programs covering more than 130 million Americans.
Becerra, a former senior House Democrat, said that in Congress he helped pass the Affordable Care Act and as California’s attorney general he has defended it. “As Secretary of Health and Human Services, I will build on our progress and ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health care — through this pandemic and beyond,” he tweeted on Monday, according to the Associated Press.
Biden’s selection of Becerra and Walensky was announced early Monday in a press release from the transition office. Biden also announced other top members of his health care team, though some posts remain unfilled.
Becerra, as California’s top lawyer, has led the coalition of Democratic states defending “Obamacare” from the Trump administration’s latest effort to overturn it, a legal case awaiting a Supreme Court decision next year.
Businessman Jeff Zients was named as Biden’s White House coronavirus coordinator. An economic adviser to former President Barack Obama, Zients also led the rescue of the HealthCare.gov website after its somewhat failed launch in 2013. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a co-chair of Biden’s coronavirus task force, is going back to his post as the nation’s doctor, with more responsibilities.
Biden announced Fauci will be the president’s chief medical adviser, while continuing as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Adding to the group are national security expert Natalie Quillian as co-director of the coronavirus response and Yale public health specialist Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who will take the lead for a new working group to reduce health disparities in COVID-19, a disease that has taken a deeper toll among minorities, according to the article.
Biden still has not picked the heads of FDA and CMS.
As CDC director, Walensky would replace Dr. Robert Redfield; Walensky is a leading infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and has devoted her career to combatting HIV/AIDS, according to the Associated Press.
“I’m honored to be called to lead the brilliant team at the CDC,” she tweeted on Monday, the article stated. “We are ready to combat this virus with science and facts.”