The CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, who sits on a policy roundtable serving President Trump, said he told the president he disapproved of an immigration order that ensnared a clinic doctor, and said Trump’s administration seemed to concede it was poorly executed.
“I think they realized it was not implemented well and they listened and we’ll have to see what they take back,” said Dr. Toby Cosgrove Wednesday, in his first public remarks about his interactions with Trump.
The remarks followed his annual speech to hospital staff and guests given early Wednesday morning at the Cleveland Clinic. In the speech, Cosgrove took a moment to single out Dr. Suha Abushamma, barred from reentering the US after the ban took effect, and the work of the organization’s lawyers in securing her return to the US.
“Welcome back,” he said to her, yielding to applause from the audience.
Cosgrove serves on the roundtable with top business executives. They met with the president in the days after the travel ban went into effect.
Until now, Cosgrove, who has faced criticism for not publicly denouncing the president’s policies, has kept his interactions with Trump private.
Cosgrove said he told the president about the potential negative impacts of the order on patients and US health care providers. “I spoke…about the importance of allowing people from around the world to come to the United States for health care, and for people to come to the United States for training at various levels,” he said.
Cosgrove also addressed protests over a planned fundraiser the clinic is holding on Feb. 25 at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s resort in Florida that he refers to as the “Winter White House.” Protestors have argued the fundraiser amounts to tacit support of Trump and his policies.
“I think it’s fine for people to express their opinions,” Cosgrove said. He added, however, that the clinic has been holding events there for six years and that the fundraiser supports important medical services for the clinic’s patients in Florida, where it operates several health care facilities.
“For example, we bought 3D mammogram capabilities with the money we raised there,” Cosgrove said of Mar-a-Lago. “It is a facility that’s appropriate for what we’re trying to do. We made this arrangement over a year ago, and it’s too late to make a change and I’m not sure a change is going to make a substantial difference.”
Afterward, while speaking with reporters, Cosgrove said he believes Congress and the president will steer clear of a wholesale repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act that opponents have warned would result in a sharp drop in insurance coverage and access to care.
“I doubt that we’re going to see massive changes in the health care bill,” Cosgrove said, “I don’t think you’re going to see repeal…because it would leave somewhere between 20 and 30 million people uncovered. That’s really untenable from a political standpoint.”
He added he does expect to see a “repair” bill that will tweak various aspects of the law. Cosgrove, who noted in his speech that the clinic’s operating income was roughly cut in half last year, to about $243 million, said he has not spoken with the president about the ACA.
However, he said, lower federal reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid are squeezing hospitals financially — a problem that would be worsened if more Americans end up uninsured due to changes in the law.
“If you look across health care, 25 percent of the hospitals in the country in the red,” Cosgrove said. “Reimbursement…can only go down so far before you start closing hospitals across the United States and rationing care. I don’t think any of us want to see that.”