Cosgrove wasn't among the initial list of potential nominees that surfaced last week, Modern Healthcare notes—a list that was more focused on top military officials and legislators, like ex-Senator Jim Webb and Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno.
But in many respects, Cosgrove would be a dream candidate for the tough-to-fill position of VA secretary:
- He checks the boxes of having high-level management experience and enacting reforms to improve care and operations.
- He's staked out a number of tough, unpopular positions (like saying that the Clinic would not hire smokers or even obese workers, if he had the legal power).
- And Cosgrove has military experience, having served in Vietnam.
He's also popular among Republicans, noted Matthew Herper, the Forbes writer who profiled Cosgrove last year.
While Cosgrove famously strives to be apolitical, his wife was a donor to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012. Romney also prominently praised the Clinic in one of the presidential debates that year.
But Cosgrove and the Clinic have won many plaudits from President Obama, too—including high-profile praise at that very debate. That prompted the system to take out advertisements in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times that the candidates had found one issue of "no debate."
Meanwhile, the Clinic's operations were repeatedly cited as a model for the Affordable Care Act—although Cosgrove has hesitated to commit his system to the law's high-profile delivery pilots. The Clinic has not yet joined Medicare's Accountable Care Organization program, for example.
There's one other line on Cosgrove's resume that might appeal to Obama: Like the president and several other members of the administration, Cosgrove played college basketball and has spoken of its value in building leadership.
However, there's one major variable still in play: The man at the center of the story hasn't weighed in. As of 8 p.m. ET, the Clinic had yet to confirm that Cosgrove had even been approached—and how seriously he'd want to join the White House's team.