HHS Secretary Goes on Comedy Show to Defend Obamacare Dysfunction

By Susan Jones | October 8, 2013 | 8:06 AM EDT

A taping of "The Daily Show with John Stewart" in October 2012. (AP File Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(CNSNews.com) - Although the dysfunctional rollout of the Obamacare health exchanges is no laughing matter to the Obama administration, the White House nevertheless sent Kathleen Sebelius to yuck it up with comedian Jon Stewart on Monday night.

For the administration, it may have been a good move. Although Stewart asked Sebelius some hard questions, he let her get away with easy or evasive answers.

Dubbing the Health and Human Services Secretary as "Kathleen Obamacare," Stewart -- no fan of "crazy" Republicans -- noted that the Obama administration has had three years to get the technology right, but it still isn't working.

Greeting Sebelius, Stewart posed a challenge: "I'm going to try and download every movie ever made -- and you're going to try to sign up for Obamacare, and we'll see which happens first."

"What's going on with this?" Stewart asked.

Sebelius ducked the question, plugging the program that will allow people to compare plans and purchase health insurance on government-run exchanges. She noted that 85 percent of Americans won't need to sign up for anything at all, because they get insurance through their employers. Obamacare, she agreed, is for the 15 percent of Americans who have no insurance or who have inadequate insurance.

Pressed on the enrollment problems later in the interview, Sebelius said "it started a little rockier than we'd like, but I think it's getting better by the day." She said "it's better today than it was yesterday, and it will keep getting better."

Sebelius could not say how many people at this point have signed up for insurance in the new exchanges: "Fully enrolled? I can't tell you. Because I don't know." She said the administration will release monthly reports on enrollment.  

"But I can tell you we've had not only lots of web hits, we've had hundreds of thousands of accounts created," which means that people are "going to go shopping" for insurance.

Stewart also asked Sebelius about companies cutting hours to less than 30 to avoid Obamacare mandates. It's not happening, Sebelius said:

"At least the economists, not anecdotal folks, but economists say there's absolutely no evidence that part time work is going up -- in fact, it's going down," Sebelius said. "The height was in the recession, it's going down. And for the first time ever in this country, part time workers -- and there are a lot of part-time workers, there always have been, there will be in the future -- will have affordable health care..."

Sebelius admitted there are people who will resent paying for health insurance or penalities, but she said many of them will pay less than they do for their cable or cell phone bills.

She said people are more likely to "live sicker and die younger without insurance."

Asked why business owners were given a one-year delay in following the law's requirements but individuals were not, Sebelius said that big businesses are already in the health market, but "nothing that helps an individual get insurance has been delayed at all."

At the end of the show, Stewart said he still doesn't understand why the Obamacare mandate is delayed for businesses but not for individuals. He questioned, in a joking way, that maybe Sebelius "is lying to me? Just me?!"

For the record, Stewart favors a single-payer health insurance system: He gave himself a standing ovation after these words to Sebelius:

"I don't understand the idea of staying with a market-based solution for a problem where people can't be smart consumers...I honestly don't understand why businesses wouldn't jump at the chance to decouple health insurance from their responsibilities and why the government wouldn't jump at the chance to create a single-payer system that simplifies this whole gobbledygook, and creates the program that I think America deserves." The line drew cheers and applause.