Jon Stewart Makes Mincemeat of Sebelius over Obamacare

Jon Stewart Makes Mincemeat of Sebelius over Obamacare

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With so much going wrong with the rollout of Obamacare, one has to wonder why the Obama administration allowed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to appear Monday night on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.”

Sebelius, the former Kansas governor, has never been the most adroit or articulate defender of the embattled Affordable Care Act. And amid rampant media reports about computer glitches and crashes ever since the formal launch of the on-line health care insurance program a week ago,  the HHS secretary was at the mercy of Stewart’s stinging barbs last night.

Pulling out a laptop computer, Stewart announced, “We’re going to do a challenge. I’m going to try and download every movie ever made and you are going to try to sign up for Obamacare — and we’ll see which happens first.”

Stewart also repeatedly pressed Sebelius on a question Republicans have been asking: namely, why did the administration postpone for a year the mandate on larger businesses to provide health insurance to their employees while not also exempting individuals from having to sign up for a policy or pay a penalty?

“Would you say that’s a legitimate criticism that an individual doesn’t get to delay it, but a business does? Is that not legitimate?” Stewart asked.

“Nothing that helps an individual get health insurance has been delayed at all,” Sebelius replied in a puzzling non-sequitur. “They’ll get the tax credit this year; they have plans to choose from.”

Mocking the complexities of the new law, an exasperated Stewart then said, “Let me ask you this: Am I a stupid man?”

“So why is it that individuals, though, couldn’t say they didn’t want to do it just for a year?” Stewart asked again.

“Well they can. They pay a fine. They pay a fine at the end of the year, but they don’t have to — they can say, ‘I don’t want to do it. The theory is they can’t pick and choose if they are hit by a bus or diagnosed with an illness,” Sebelius responded.

Problems with the main Obamacare Website,, have dominated headlines since the site opened for business on Oct. 1. Most of the exchange websites crashed on the first day, a development that generated loud hoots from critics. The White House is claiming the problem is the result of overwhelming demand for Obamacare’s insurance products. Tech experts, however, say the site has fundamental flaws that are not related to the number of users.

Meanwhile, the White House has declined to release the number of Americans who have actually signed up for exchange-based coverage so far–prompting speculation that very few Americans have availed themselves of the program so far.

Washington Editor and D.C. Bureau Chief Eric Pianin is a veteran journalist who has covered the federal government, congressional budget and tax issues, and national politics. He spent over 25 years at The Washington Post.