By Debbie Gregory.
Last month, President-elect Donald Trump convened a meeting to explore additional ways to enable veterans to obtain private medical treatment
Trump met with a group of private-sector health care executives, including Mayo Clinic chief executive John Noseworthy and Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove to discuss overhauling health care for veterans, including by allowing them to more readily visit hospitals outside the Veterans Affairs system.
The group weighed public-private partnerships and other options that would make it possible for veterans to go to any hospital for care, inside the VA system or outside of it, a senior transition official said after the meeting. Some veterans advocacy groups have cautioned against expanding access to care outside the government-run hospitals under the Veterans Health Administration, fearing the system may be weakened by privatization.
The VA system spends about $70 billion a year on medical care, offering a potential windfall to private hospitals if more veterans are allowed into their beds.
Other present included Paul Rothman, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine and David Torchiana, CEO of Partners HealthCare.
The hospital executives left the meeting without speaking to reporters.
Currently, the VA does farm out medical treatment to the private sector for veterans who have been waiting too long for appointments in the government-run system, and for those who have to travel significant distances to VA hospitals and clinics.
But some Republicans have pushed for a completely open system, commonly known as choice, while Democrats have said the move would effectively amount to privatizing a system that was designed to focus on the unique needs of military veterans.
Trump has met with or considered about a dozen candidates to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, but finding the right person for the job, and someone who actually wants it, remains one of Trump’s biggest challenges.