KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Former Procter & Gamble CEO Tapped To Turn Around VA System

President Barack Obama highlighted Robert McDonald’s management experience at P&G more than his military career as an Army Ranger in the 82nd Airborne Division. However, the West Point graduate has never run a health care system, let alone a sprawling one with 1,700 hospitals and clinics.

The Wall Street Journal: Former Procter & Gamble CEO Tapped As New VA Secretary
In turning to Robert McDonald to fix the Department of Veterans Affairs, President Barack Obama is banking that a longtime corporate executive has the skills to revamp the beleaguered veterans' health system. Mr.  McDonald's 33-year tenure at consumer-products giant Procter & Gamble Co. offers a glimpse at the skills he would bring to the job. He was known as a straight shooter with a tireless work ethic. ... At the same time, during his years as CEO from 2009 to mid-2013, P&G stumbled with weak financial results and some delayed or poorly executed product launches (McCain Nelson and Ng, 6/30). 

The New York Times: V.A. Nominee McDonald Faced Criticism At Procter & Gamble
On Monday, Mr. McDonald, a 61-year-old former Army captain and West Point graduate, became President Obama’s pick to unscramble the Department of Veterans Affairs, a $154-billion-a-year agency of 300,000 employees that has become an enterprise of dysfunction and has lost the trust of many of the nine million people it serves. ... Mr. McDonald had critics at Procter & Gamble, but on Monday some analysts, including one who was a harsh judge of his tenure there, said that trying to turn around a government bureaucracy might be more suited to Mr. McDonald’s skills (Oppel, 6/30). 

The Washington Post: Obama Taps Robert A. McDonald To Lead VA, Tackle Troubled Agency’s Many Challenges
Speaking at the department’s headquarters, Obama said McDonald was well-suited to fix what an administration report has found to be “significant and chronic system failures,” a “corrosive culture” and major dysfunction at the Veterans Health Administration, which has faced scandal over long waits encountered by veterans seeking care (Goldfarb and Eilperin, 6/30). 

Politico: Barack Obama Announces VA Pick
President Barack Obama announced his intention Monday to nominate former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, as he vowed to continue to push to reform the troubled agency. ... Leading efforts to improve the agency — and the Veterans Health Administration, which is part of the department — “is not going to be an easy assignment,” the president said, but he believes that McDonald is well-suited for the task. The ex-P&G CEO “has a reputation for being ready, for jumping into tough situations and going all the way” (Epstein, 6/30). 

The Chicago Sun-Times: Chicago-Area Native Brings Consumer Approach To VA
President Barack Obama’s pick to fix the scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs is Robert McDonald, a former Procter & Gamble CEO and a graduate of West Point and the now-closed Arlington High School in Arlington Heights. In announcing McDonald as his pick on Monday, Obama highlighted McDonald’s management experience at P&G more than his military career as an Army Ranger in the 82nd Airborne Division. To quickly fix problems in delivering health care to veterans, many lawmakers on Capitol Hill — and top White House aides — concluded that a new model was needed: Not a military officer but rather someone with experience in running massive, complex consumer-oriented operations (Sweet, 6/30).

The Fiscal Times: McDonald’s VA ‘To-Do-List’ Includes 6 Urgent Fixes
Bob McDonald, the former Proctor & Gamble chief executive who was nominated by President Obama on Monday to take charge of the Veterans Affairs Department, will face a great challenge as he tries to reform the agency’s sprawling and scandal-ridden medical treatment system -- a system that may have led to the deaths of many veterans who were forced to wait too long for care. McDonald, 61, is a well-regarded corporate strategist and a one-time military officer who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., but he’s had no direct involvement in managing a huge medical treatment system. He’ll need all the good advice and counsel he can get to manage the VA’s 1,700 hospitals and clinics, assuming the Senate confirms him (Pianin, 7/1).

Meanwhile, a Pentagon official responds to a New York Times probe of the military health system -

The New York Times: Official Seeks Restored Trust In Military Care
The Pentagon’s senior health-affairs official said Monday that the armed forces’ global network of hospitals and clinics must work to restore trust in the caliber of health care following disclosures of shortcomings in maternity and surgical care and a pattern of avoidable errors that have led to injuries and contributed to some deaths (LaFraniere, 6/30). 

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