(Bloomberg) — President-elect Donald Trump met at his Florida resort on Wednesday with leaders of top U.S. nonprofit hospital systems to discuss overhauling health care for veterans, including by allowing them to more readily visit hospitals outside the Veterans Affairs system.
Related: Donald Trump proposes VA reforms
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.
John Noseworthy, chief executive officer of the Mayo Clinic; Paul Rothman, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine; David Torchiana, CEO of Partners HealthCare; and Toby Cosgrove, CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, whom Trump interviewed for VA secretary, traveled to Palm Beach for the meeting. A restructuring consultant, Marc Sherman of the firm Alvarez & Marsal, also participated, according to the transition official, who described the meeting on condition of anonymity.
A person close to Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter said he also participated in a meeting with Trump and the health care executives. Perlmutter has contributed $50 million to New York University Langone Medical Center, where the cancer center is named for him and his wife.
The hospital executives left the meeting without speaking to reporters, and their institutions provided little detail. Rothman, in a message to Johns Hopkins staff obtained by Bloomberg, said the meeting with Trump “reflects his recognition of the critical importance of health care and biomedical research to the country.”
Hopkins confirmed the message. “Johns Hopkins Medicine remains committed to improving health outcomes for patients, families and communities across the country,” Rothman said in a statement from a spokeswoman.
Trump and Republican leaders of Congress have vowed they will repeal the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 health care overhaul that’s generally supported by large hospital systems. It wasn’t clear whether the issue was discussed.
The Mayo Clinic said in a statement that Noseworthy was invited to discuss “his perspective on the future of health care delivery, research and excellence,” including applying principles developed at the Mayo Clinic to improve U.S. health care.
Noseworthy planned to discuss “Mayo Clinic’s views on critical success factors needed to solve our nation’s most pressing and complex health challenges,” the Rochester, Minnesota-based health system said.
A Partners spokesman, Rich Copp, said the conversation “touched on a wide range of health care issues including affordability, quality and biomedical research.” The organization’s hospitals include the Harvard Medical School-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
A Cleveland Clinic spokeswoman, Eileen Sheil, said the group discussed “a broad range of health care topics.”
Cleveland Clinic’s Cosgrove has called the Affordable Care Act a success for helping to improve the quality of care and for providing millions of Americans with insurance coverage. Repealing the entire law “would be incredibly disruptive,” Cosgrove said in a Dec. 8 Bloomberg Television interview.
He said the country needs to do more to prevent diseases, by reducing smoking and sugar consumption, and to slow rising costs, particularly by controlling skyrocketing drug prices. He has also said that he thought the Obama administration wasn’t as open to input from health care executives as he would have liked.
Perlmutter has been friends with Trump for years, and his wife, Laura, sits on the president-elect’s inauguration-planning committee. They divide their time between homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, much like Trump, and spent Thanksgiving with him at Mar-a-Lago.
—With assistance from Doni Bloomfield, John Lauerman, Christopher Palmeri and Drew Armstrong.
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