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Trump Meets With Top Health Care Execs, Closes in on VA Pick

In this Dec. 15, 2016, file photo, President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
In this Dec. 15, 2016, file photo, President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President-elect Donald Trump met earlier this week with top health care executives on cutting wait times at Veterans Affairs hospitals and allowing vets more choice on private care as he edged closer to choosing a new VA secretary.

There was speculation that Trump could announce his pick Friday from a wide range of names that have been floated, but Trump aides hinted at the same possibility last week. Several people believed to be under consideration are not veterans themselves, which would be a break with tradition at the VA.

Trump met at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Wednesday with John Noseworthy, chief executive officer of the Mayo Clinic; Paul Rothman, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine; David Torchiana, CEO of Partners HealthCare; and Delos "Toby" Cosgrove, CEO of the Cleveland Clinic.

For Cosgrove, who served as an Air Force medical officer in Vietnam and earned a Bronze Star, it was the second time in two weeks that he had been summoned to meet with Trump. Several news outlets have named Cosgrove as the frontrunner to replace VA Secretary Robert McDonald, although Cosgrove in the past has voiced support for the Affordable Care Act, which Trump has pledged to scrap.

A Trump transition official told Bloomberg News that the meeting Wednesday focused on "how would you implement a program that could get vets the ability to go to any hospital that they wanted to go to." The VA currently allows private treatment in some cases for veterans who have to wait for appointments in the government-run system, or who have to travel long distances to VA hospitals.

However, major veterans service organizations and advocacy groups have expressed concerns that too much choice could devastate a VA health care system focused solely on vets. More than 20 veterans organizations and advocacy groups have recommended that Trump consider retaining McDonald to continue VA reforms already underway.

During the campaign, Trump pledged that his VA choice would be a "person of great competence" and "not a political hack." He also said that he would set up a hotline at the White House that vets could call with complaints about treatment.

Trump also met last week with Luis Quinonez, founder of a health care company serving the government and the private sector. Quinonez later told Univision he was under consideration for the VA post.

Others reportedly under consideration are: Sarah Palin, the former Republican governor of Alaska and candidate for vice president; Jeff Miller, the retiring Republican chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs; Scott Brown, a former Republican senator from Massachusetts; and Pete Hegseth, a Fox News contributor and former chief executive of Concerned Veterans for America.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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