Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove has withdrawn his name from consideration as secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department, according to several news reports.
President-elect Donald Trump had tapped Cosgrove for the job and as recently as last week met with him and other healthcare executives to discuss several industry-related matters and ideas on how to revamp the VA healthcare system. The next day, the Trump administration suggested veterans be allowed to choose care from private-sector providers.
A source told Bloomberg news that Cosgrove wasn't able to get out of his commitment to the Cleveland Clinic in order to accept the nomination. The government agency is responsible for providing healthcare to more than 20 million veterans at 1,700 facilities throughout the nation.
The agency has been rocked by scandal. Beginning in 2014, top officials were accused of covering up inordinate wait times that some say caused veterans to die while waiting for care.
VA secretary Eric Shinseki resigned, and the administration has tried to address access by increasing telehealth services and expanding the scope of practice for some nurses working at the VA. But, advocates say there's been little progress.
Luis Quinonez, the other rumored top pick for the VA post, reportedly withdrew his name for consideration over the weekend. Quinonez is the president of MAQ Diversified, a Virginia-based physician staffing company.
VA secretary is one of the few secretary positions left for Trump to fill. Trump last week proposed increasing veterans' choice in their healthcare. The idea is similar to the Veterans Choice program, which was part of the 2014 VA overhaul. The $10 billion, three-year program funded by Congress is meant to improve access to healthcare and reduce wait times for veterans who typically seek care from VA facilities.
Under the Veterans Choice program, veterans who have waited at least 30 days for an appointment at a VA facility or have to travel more than 40 miles for VA care are able to get federally funded treatment at local, non-VA doctors.
Cosgrove has previously rejected the VA secretary post. President Barack Obama had tapped him after Shinseki resigned but Cosgrove chose to stay at Cleveland Clinic. Obama instead hired former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald.
Cosgrove, who was ranked No. 29 on Modern Healthcare's list of the 100 Most Influential People in 2016, will continue to advise Trump as part of a 16-member group that "will be called upon to meet with the president frequently to share their specific experience and knowledge as the president implements his plan to bring back jobs and Make America Great Again," according to a statement from Trump's office.
Under Cosgrove's leadership since 2004, Cleveland Clinic has become one of the world's leading academic medical centers, with Cosgrove emerging as a leading voice on national healthcare policy matters.