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Jon Stewart challenges Kathleen Sebelius on Obamacare individual mandate [Examiner, The (Washington, DC)]

By Charlie Spiering; Charlie Spiering, Commentary Writer
Proquest LLC

Comedian Jon Stewart challenged Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over the individual mandate forcing Americans to enroll in Obamacare during an interview on the Daily Show on Monday night.

Stewart suggested that it wasn't fair that individuals didn't get a waiver from the mandate, even though Big Business did.

"But if I'm an individual that doesn't want it, it would be hard for me to look at big business getting a waiver and not having to do it and me having to because I would think, 'Gee, it looks like because I don't have a lobbying group,' " Stewart said.

"I would feel like you are favoring big business because they lobbied you to delay it because they didn't want to do this year, but you are not allowing individuals that same courtesy," he said.

Sebelius said individuals who don't want insurance wouldn't have to buy it but they would be fined.

"The fear is they can't choose whether they get hit by a bus or diagnosed with an illness, for a lot of young folks they're, you know, one fall on the basketball court or one auto accident away from a lifetime of hospital bills they can't pay," she said.

Stewart said it is "frustrating" to defend a government program that was "less than ideal," citing problems with the website and reading reports of businesses cutting employees hours to less than 30 per week.

Sebelius insisted that the amount of part-time employees were actually going down and that for the first time many of them could get health insurance.

"They will have an option, they will have -- not their employer offering help with their coverage -- but the government," she explained.

By the end of the segment, Stewart criticized the market exchange- based health care system created by Obamacare, suggesting that America should be able to create a single-payer system.

"I honestly don't understand why businesses wouldn't jump at the chance to decouple health insurance from their responsibility, and why the government wouldn't jump at the chance to create a single payer system, that simplifies this whole gobbledy-gook and creates a program that America deserves, I don't get it," Stewart said.

Sebelius called Stewart's touting of the European socialist single-payer model "reasonable" but defended the government- directed, market-based Obamacare exchange system.

"I think the president did not want to dismantle the health care that 85 percent of the country had and start all over again," she said. "So he chose to fill the gap, not to dismantle the coverage."

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Stewart also challenged Sebelius over the Obamacare website's lack of functionality, pointing out that Obama's campaign was loaded with tech-savvy operatives.

"It started a little rockier than we'd like, but I think it's getting better by the day," Sebelius said. "It's better today than it was yesterday and it will keep getting better."

"How many are signed up thus far?" asked Stewart.

"Fully enrolled? I can't tell you because I don't know," Sebelius replied.

Sebelius said that there were "hundreds of thousands of accounts created" on the website which would allow them go shopping for coverage in the future.

"The good news is you don't have to buy it today," she said. "You have to have insurance by the 15th of December to have a plan that starts in January."

Copyright:(c) 2013 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.
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