If you thought that popular vote loser Donald Trump’s idea to put his sycophantic personal physician in charge of the Department of Veterans Affairs was problematic, check out what else is going on in his administration with the VA.
A West Palm Beach doctor’s ties to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago social circle have enabled him to hold up the biggest health information technology project in history—the transformation of the VA’s digital records system.
Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, an internist and friend of Trump confidant Ike Perlmutter, who advises the president informally on vet issues, objected to the $16 billion Department of Veterans Affairs project because he doesn’t like the Cerner Corp. software he uses at two Florida hospitals, according to four former and current senior VA officials. Cerner technology is a cornerstone of the VA project.
With the White House’s approval, Moskowitz has been on two or three monthly calls since November with the contracting team responsible for implementing the 10-year project, according to two former senior VA officials. Perlmutter, the Marvel Entertainment chairman, has also been on some of the calls, they said.
It gets weirder, though, because the choice of Cerner for the contract was influenced by none other than Trump son-in-law and presidential advisor Jared Kushner, along with ousted VA secretary David Shulkin who announced the contract before he was fired. But before he was fired, the intervention from Moscowitz and Perlmutter was already muddying the waters and infuriating VA medical personnel involved in the discusson, according to a former senior VA official who spoke with Politico for this story. “Shulkin would say, ‘Who the hell is this person who practices medicine in Florida and has never run a health care system?'” the source reports, saying that this was one of the points of contention between Trump and Shulkin that culminated in his firing.
To make it all even more stupid, Moskowitz’s problem with Cerner is stemming from his personal experience with it at hospitals, and his assumption that if his hospitals—operating with a system that haven’t been updated—didn’t have a feature it simply doesn’t exist, two sources told Politico.
“He’d be, like, ‘It doesn’t’ have voice-recognition software.’ Yes, Cerner does have voice-recognition software. But it isn’t installed in all Cerner hospitals.”
“This was part of the rub between Shulkin and the Trump people,” the first source said. “This guy’s whispering in Trump’s ear, ‘I know because I have to use it!'”
The Cerner deal is not without valid issues. It’s been in use by military hospitals since 2015, which is one of the reasons the VA had decided on it so that the two systems could integrate to better serve people transitioning out of the military and into VA care. But there have been real glitches in the system as it’s been implemented first in four Washington state clinics and hospitals. Shulkin delayed finalizing the contract last year to make sure that Cerner was working this out and that it was also capable of health data exchange with private-sector doctors. As of January, everyone thought it was decided and finalized.
“I thought it was going to be done in a few days after that,” said a congressional source who tracks the deal. “Now it looks like there isn’t any tangible path forward.”
And now it’s chaos because a millionaire buddy of Trump has his ear. And because of that he fired Shulkin and decided Ronny Jackson was the guy who maybe wasn’t qualified at all to do the job, but is a helluva suck up so he deserved it. Except he didn’t and now there’s no secretary, no nominee and apparently no contract.