President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have chosen the top members of their health team, including COVID-19 experts and a state attorney general known to support the Affordable Care Act and other initiatives that align with key concerns of the long-term care industry.

Xavier Becerra, nominated to replace Alex Azar as secretary of Health and Human Services, is the attorney general of California, a former member of Congress and “a long-time champion of expanding access to healthcare,” according to the Biden-Harris transition team. 

Becerra has played a significant role in the passage of the ACA and in November led the defense of the law in the Supreme Court, the Biden team reported.

Katie Smith Sloan, president of LeadingAge, worked with Becerra when he was in Congress. He was a friend of long-term care causes, she told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Senior Editor Liza Berger Monday. 

“He was very supportive of our work in two ways: the CLASS (Community Living Assistance Services and Support) Act, which was part of the ACA, and he also was a state champion of affordable housing,” she said.

“He understood that looming need out there,” Smith Sloan added, noting that one of LeadingAge’s goals is to have HHS work more closely with the Department of Housing and Urban Development on housing issues.

Image of Rochelle Walensky, M.D.
Rochelle Walensky, M.D.,

Other health team picks include virus specialist Rochelle Walensky, M.D., who will assume Robert Redfield’s current role as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Walensky is an expert on virus testing, prevention and treatment, and has served on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic response in Massachusetts as chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is also a lecturer at Harvard Medical School.

Anthony Fauci, M.D., is also on board. The popular public figure was nominated as chief medical adviser to Biden on COVID-19, and will continue to serve as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

These and other health team choices are “experts in their fields who will restore public trust in the pandemic response by leading with facts, science, integrity, and a laser-focus on bringing COVID-19 under control,” the Biden-Harris transition team said.