President-elect Joe Biden has selected Xavier Becerra, the current attorney general of California and a critic of President Trump’s nursing home policies, to helm the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the incoming administration, the New York Times reported Sunday.
Prior to serving as California’s top prosecutor, Becerra represented the Los Angeles area in Congress for 12 years.
Becerra must be confirmed by the Senate after Biden’s January 20 inauguration in order to take over at HHS. The role will place him at the forefront of efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 — both in nursing homes and among the general population.
As the Golden State’s AG, Becerra was critical of a Trump administration decision to delay the third phase of a sweeping update to the Requirements of Participation (RoPs) for nursing homes.
“Not only does it violate several laws, it threatens the quality of care offered in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities,” Becerra wrote in a September 2019 letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). “If finalized in substantially similar form, the Rule would harm an ever-growing population of nursing home residents and states like California that have prioritized the safety of our residents and the public health.”
Becerra had also signed onto a letter, along with other state attorneys general, calling on CMS to reconsider an enforcement delay on the second phase of the RoP update; in a separate letter, Becerra and other AGs criticized Trump’s CMS for considering the rollback of an Obama-era ban on mandatory arbitration agreements for nursing home residents.
“The CMS proposal to reverse its ban on pre-dispute arbitration clauses will put seniors at risk by rolling back their rights,” Becerra said in a 2017 statement. “Californians should not be forced to give up their right to have their day in court if they or their loved ones are the victims of misconduct or harm by a nursing home. Taking away protections for our seniors is yet another example of the Trump administration putting the interests of corporations ahead of the interests of patients.”
The outgoing president had a pair of HHS secretaries: current chief Alex Azar, and former top health official Tom Price, who resigned in 2017 amid scrutiny of his travel spending.