Over the past four years, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did considerable damage to health care in the United States. The policies of Trump’s leaders at HHS undermined Medicaid, sabotaged birth control access, and promoted discriminatory health care policies.
But now there’s a new Secretary of Health and Human Services on the horizon. Getting him confirmed, however, could be a fight.
Meet Xavier Becerra
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is the health care champion we need to lead HHS. How do we know? As attorney general, Becerra brought more than 120 lawsuits against the Trump administration’s harmful policies; he’s been called “one of the most important defenders of the Affordable Care Act.” Becerra is committed to protecting and advancing reproductive freedom, immigrants’ rights, gender equality, racial equity, LGBTQ+ rights, disability rights, and access to health care for all.
Call Your Senators
If that’s the kind of Health and Human Services you want to see, call your senator and tell them to confirm Xavier Becerra for HHS Secretary today.
Why We Need Becerra at HHS
Becerra would be the first Latino to serve as HHS Secretary. His nomination is a sign of the Biden administration’s commitment to health care equity — because throughout his decades in public service, Becerra has consistently fought to protect and expand health care access for all people.
Key reasons why people in the United States need Xavier Becerra in the fight for their health care:
1) The Affordable Care Act (ACA)
Becerra not only fought to protect the ACA during his time as attorney general of California — he also helped to write it. As a 12-term member of Congress, Becerra helped craft and pass of the most consequential pieces of health care legislation in a generation. He has the knowledge and experience we need to improve the delivery of — and access to — health care during this critical time.
Becerra led a joint effort by state attorneys general to defend the ACA from a lawsuit that threatened the coverage of tens of millions of people who gained access to Medicaid or private insurance under the landmark law. When the former administration’s Department of Justice refused to defend the ACA in hopes that courts would overturn the law, Becerra stepped in — filing critical appeals in California v. Texas, as the case had come to be known by the time it reached the Supreme Court.
Pictured above: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, at back right, meets with President Biden, Vice President Harris, and others in the Oval Office for a Feb. 2 briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic.
2) Experienced Leadership in a Time of Crisis
COVID-19 has already claimed more than 400,000 lives in the United States — and its death toll continues to climb at an alarming rate. Derelict and incompetent leadership from the previous administration slowed vaccine distribution, left health professionals facing long-term shortages of protective equipment, and contradicted life-saving health advice with lies and misinformation.
With Becerra at the helm of HHS, we can expect clear, truthful COVID-19 messages on how to protect ourselves, as well as a transparent and improved vaccine rollout. We can also look forward to new policies – and vastly more energetic efforts — to help slow the spread of this deadly virus.
3) Championing Sexual/Reproductive Health and Rights
The Trump administration worked to undermine access to coverage and care at every turn — especially sexual and reproductive care — despite overwhelming public support. And our reproductive health and rights have been under relentless attack at the federal and state levels. Becerra has proven himself, over his career, to be the staunch sexual and reproductive health and rights champion we need to reverse the damage done — and expand access to care.
Becerra was a national leader in the fight against the previous administration’s attempts to roll back sexual and reproductive health access:
When the domestic gag rule was proposed for Title X, the nation’s only dedicated federal funding for affordable reproductive health care, Becerra led a coalition of 13 attorneys general — submitting comments in opposition to the unethical and harmful restrictions of the rule.
When the Trump administration finalized the domestic gag rule, which ultimately forced providers like Planned Parenthood out of the Title X program, Becerra again took quick action to defend affordable health care access by filing a lawsuit and submitting an amicus brief in support of a similar lawsuit brought by the city of Baltimore.
He filed multiple amicus briefs in opposition to harmful policies in other states that posed dangerous restrictions to abortion access.
He also challenged the Trump administration’s Healthcare Refusal Rule, which was intended to give health care workers permission to refuse people access to care they found personally objectionable, which could include services such as transgender care, abortion, sterilization, or HIV/AIDS treatment.
As HHS Secretary, Becerra could get right to work to end the domestic gag rule and modernize and rebuild Title X for patients and providers. He could end other attacks on providers and patients, such as the refusal of care rule. And he could roll back the Trump birth control rules that permit employers to deny their workers coverage based on their personal beliefs. He could also ensure that all individuals — regardless of race, income, sexual orientation, or gender identity — have full access to quality health care.
4) Championing Racial Justice
The COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating death toll has continued to mount, and Black and Brown communities have suffered at a disproportionate rate. As the son of Mexican immigrants, Becerra — who would be the first Latino to head HHS — is deeply familiar with the challenges that face communities of color across the nation during this deadly pandemic.
Becerra defended Black and Brown communities as California attorney general when he:
Challenged the Trump administration’s racist public charge rule, fighting to protect immigrant families from intimidation in accessing the health care coverage and other safety net programs they need to thrive.
Led a multi-state coalition to protect the health of immigrant children being held in detention.
Established the Bureau of Environmental Justice in California to fight back against environmental practices that disproportionately impact the public health and safety of the state's most historically oppressed residents.
HHS has always been important. Now, in the middle of a pandemic, it plays a crucial role in determining how our country combats this crisis in a way that meets the needs of the communities hit hardest. That’s why we need someone with Becerra’s experience and skill leading HHS — and why the Senate should confirm him without further delay.
Call Your Senators
The Biden-Harris administration has an incredible amount of work ahead controlling the pandemic, undoing the damage done by the Trump administration, and building a stronger, more equitable health care system.
We need a health care champion who will protect and expand access to health care for all — no matter who they are or where they live. Senators must immediately confirm Xavier Becerra for HHS Secretary.
Credit for image featured at top: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.com