Stewart vs. Sebelius: HHS Secretary Implodes during Grilling from “Daily Show” Host

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On Monday night, Jon Stewart had HHS Secretary Sebelius on “The Daily Show” to discuss Obamacare and its failed exchange websites. The top health care official in America was treated to a proper interrogation, beginning as soon as she sat down. Stewart pulled up a laptop and said he was going to download every movie in history while she tried to sign up for the exchanges…and they would see who got done first.

The segment is worth watching in full, especially because after the interview, Stewart accused Sebelius of lying to him about why employers have a mandate delay and individuals do not.

However, there are three things Stewart missed in what Sebelius said that mislead the public about the law. First, Sebelius noted “the rules of the country” say when someone gets sick, he or she can enter an emergency room, get treatment, and “somebody else picks up that bill.”

This claim is misleading. Those “rules” are exactly that, government mandates. This means the individual mandate is being created by government to fix a problem created by government.

Furthermore, it is not true that “somebody else picks up the bill” in all cases. Many people do take advantage of the current system, but others simply pay for treatment in full at the time of treatment. Others pay over time. The idea that “somebody else picks up the bill” does not reflect accurate percentages of unpaid emergency room bills.

At another point in the interview, Sebelius claimed the idea that businesses are cutting back because of Obamacare isn’t true. “Again, at least the economists, not anecdotal folks, but economists say there’s absolutely no evidence part-time work is going up. In fact, it’s going down.” She said most of the increase that had taken place was because of the recent recession.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) most recent data, however, part-time work is on an upward trend in this country. While it dipped in August 2013, the two prior months were higher than August 2012 and April 2013. We’ll have to wait to see what new official calculations are once the BLS is fully reopened after the government “shutdown,” but Sebelius’ argument is on weak ground.

Finally, Sebelius and Stewart agreed that 85% of Americans have health insurance and won’t have to look on the exchanges. However, this statistic is several years old, and we suspect that with businesses across the country shoving employees onto the exchanges, that 85% number is lower than claimed and dropping.

There were many other misleading and inaccurate things Sebelius said, but Stewart did a good job of calling her out on many of them. Her interview is another strike against Obamacare.