Seniors can rightly celebrate Thursday’s Senate confirmation of California attorney general Xavier Becerra to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  Few cabinet positions have as much impact on older Americans’ health and well-being as the Secretary of HHS, which oversees the administration of Medicare, Medicaid, and Older Americans Act programs.  Throughout his long and distinguished career in public service, Xavier Becerra has demonstrated a commitment to older Americans’ health care.

“Attorney General Becerra’s experience as a legislator and executive leaves little doubt about his ability to help the Biden Administration successfully guide the country out of the COVID pandemic — and into a stronger era of health and human services delivery for seniors and all Americans.” – Max Richtman, President and CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

As a Congressman, Becerra helped secure passage of the Affordable Care Act and later defended it in court. He knows the plight of those who lack access to affordable health care coverage and understands the government’s fundamental responsibility in this area.  As HHS Secretary, he can direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to continue moving away from destructive Trump era policies, toward President Biden’s fairer and more expansive vision of both programs — and advocate for that vision with the Congress. 

“Speaking at a Senate confirmation hearing last month, Becerra said he understands ‘the enormous challenges before us.’ He said he would work not only to contain the virus but also to boost access to affordable health care.” – CNBC, 3/18/21

Thursday’s Senate vote was the closest for any of Biden’s cabinet nominations so far, with one Republican crossing the aisle to support Becerra.

“Maine Republican Susan Collins joined all of the Democrats present in the 50-49 vote —  an unusually narrow margin for an HHS secretary. Becerra, who served in the House for more than two decades before becoming California’s Attorney General, will become the first Latino to head the sprawling federal health department.” – Politico, 3/18/21

National Committee President Max Richtman applauded the Democratic Senators who unanimously voted to confirm Becerra – and commended Senator Collins “for putting party politics aside to cast her vote for responsive, informed leadership at HHS.”

As the first Latino HHS Secretary, Xavier Becerra brings much-needed perspective and life experience to the job as an ever-diversifying country moves toward a more equitable health care system for all.