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Biden's HHS pick suggests he's looking past the pandemic

"There was an element of surprise" when President-elect Joe Biden chose California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead the Health and Human Services Department, Irwin Redlener, a Columbia University professor and pandemic-response expert, told Stat News, since the nominee has a legal background rather than a medical one. Writes Stat, the selection suggests the president-elect is looking past the coronavirus pandemic, instead tapping someone who will focus on issues like Affordable Care Act protections and high drug prices down the line.

Of course, the coronavirus looms large regardless, so it appears that Becerra's primary role in combating the pandemic will be a managerial one, leaving the medical expertise to career government scientists, who are likely to return to the forefront during the Biden administration, Stat reports. Redlener said he's heard positive things about Becerra's leadership skills, and Marian Moser-Jones, a University of Maryland professor who studies public health and U.S. health care deliver during crises, also expressed confidence in his ability to guide the department during the pandemic.

"We have tunnel vision right now, we're thinking about the pandemic, and he's not really an emergency-preparedness kind of guy," she told Stat. "But just because somebody doesn't have experience running a huge agency doesn't mean they can't do it." Read more at Stat News.