President Biden named HHS career civil servant Norris Cochran to be the acting head of HHS pending a Senate vote on Xavier Becerra's nomination for the post. | Source: C-SPAN

Biden Appoints Acting Leaders at HRSA, CMS, and HHS

President Biden has accepted the resignation of U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Administrator Tom Engels, whom former President Trump appointed to the post in November 2019. Diana Espinosa, a career civil servant who has served as HRSA’s deputy administrator since 2015, yesterday was named acting administrator. Last year, Espinosa was given the job of managing the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s (HHS) $177 billion COVID-19 Provider Relief Fund.

The Biden administration yesterday also named career civil servant Liz Richter to be acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, replacing Seema Verma. Verma spearheaded the Trump administration’s nearly 30 percent cut in Medicare Part B drug reimbursement for 340B hospitals.

HHS Deputy General Counsel Daniel Barry, a civil servant, was named acting HHS general counsel, replacing Trump appointee Robert Charrow. Charrow drew attention for his robust advocacy of HRSA’s position that drug manufacturers must offer 340B pricing on drugs dispensed by contract pharmacies.

The Biden administration yesterday named career civil servant Norris Cochran the acting HHS secretary, replacing Alex Azar. Biden has chosen California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to succeed Azar and long-time Washington, D.C., policy veteran Andrea Palm to be Becerra’s  deputy secretary. Palm has been overseeing Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services since January 2019.

This is the second time Cochran, the HHS deputy assistant secretary of budget, has served as acting HHS secretary. The first was in 2017, before ex-President Trump’s first HHS secretary, Tom Price, was confirmed by the Senate. Becerra’s confirmation hearings have been held up in part due to the fact that Democrats officially took control of the Senate only yesterday, when Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia were sworn in. A third Democrat, Alex Padilla of California, who was appointed to complete Vice President Kamala Harris’s unfinished Senate term, also was sworn in yesterday.