A key Obamacare defender got grilled Monday night over the weakness of the program's rollout by a normally friendly source — Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show."
As Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sat down to be interviewed, the Comedy Central host opened his laptop and issued 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."
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The website for people who don't have health insurance through their employers opened on Oct. 1, but has been plagued with glitches.
The administration said that was because the program is so popular, but even defenders such as Stewart didn't buy the explanation.
HHS has declined
to give numbers for how many have signed up under state exchanges, and when Stewart asked, Sebelius replied, "Fully enrolled? I can't tell you because I don't know."
She said monthly reports will be forthcoming.
"I can tell you we've had not only lots of Web hits, hundreds of thousands of accounts created," Sebelius said. "We have lots of interest."
"So it's been hundreds of thousands of people have signed up?" Stewart asked.
"Of accounts created, which means that then they're going to go shopping," Sebelius answered.
Stewart repeatedly pressed Sebelius on why the individual mandate to buy insurance can't be delayed for a year since employers did get a one-year delay. Republicans have a valid point on the issue, he said.
But despite Sebelius' multiple attempts to answer the question, Stewart remained unable to grasp her reasoning. "Am I a stupid man?" he finally asked.
Stewart, a supporter of the Affordable Care Act, told Sebelius it is frustrating for him to have to defend the law when it "is less than ideal or is functioning at what seems to be a level of incompetence that is larger than what it should be."
As he closed out the show, with Sebelius no longer at his desk, Stewart admitted, "I still don't understand why individuals have to sign up and businesses don't."
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Perhaps it is just too complicated to grasp easily, he said. "But then I think to myself, well, maybe she's just lying to me — just to me."
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