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Dr. Glenn Steele Jr.
Dr. Glenn Steele Jr.

Top hospital CEOs to debate journalists on Obamacare


By Harris Meyer
Posted: January 18, 2014 - 12:01 am ET
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As if there hasn't already been enough argument about Obamacare, two of the nation's most prominent health system CEOs will engage in verbal combat Tuesday with two formidable critics of the law in a debate. The event, which will be live-streamed, will be held at the Riverside Theatre in Vero Beach, Fla. from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern time.

Dr. Glenn Steele Jr., president and CEO of Geisinger Health System, Danville, Pa., admits that it wasn't hard to persuade him to fly down to Florida in January to hang out with Dr. Gary Gottlieb, president and CEO of Partners HealthCare, Boston, and participate in the debate. “He's a very bright guy, we get to spend a little time talking about why we think the Affordable Care Act is important, and we have a couple of very bright folks arguing the other side,” he said.

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Their opponents will be journalist Steven Brill, author of the lengthy, widely discussed article in Time magazine, “Bitter pill: Why medical bills are killing us,” and Avik Roy, senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute and a healthcare columnist for Forbes. The moderator will be veteran healthcare journalist Susan Dentzer, now senior health policy adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Steele said he expects that the live audience of about 800 probably will consist mostly of “rich Republicans.” Audience members will vote prior to the debate, and again after, on the motion: “The nation needs the Affordable Care Act.” He quipped that “if I can get two people to switch sides on the issue, I think I should get the Nobel Prize. I spent seven years in Chicago so I know how to work elections.”

Why keep debating Obamacare? “With something this complex and politically fraught, why shouldn't there be opposition and intelligent discussion, as long as it's a reasonable debate?” Steele said.

The debate will be available for viewing here.

Follow Harris Meyer on Twitter: @MHHmeyer


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