It's difficult to recall a more infuriating segment from The Daily Show. Last night, Jon Stewart's guest was Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, and, predictably, the topic was the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, aka. Obamacare.
Going in, I thought (incorrectly it turns out) that if anyone can explain away the myths and lingering questions about Obamacare, Sebelius, who's tasked with implementing the law, could totally nail it. Oh, I was so wrong.
Perhaps she was having a bad night. After all, she's had a busy week. But it didn't help that Stewart attacked her on two infuriating fronts: various Healthcare.org website glitches, and the right-wing talking point about the insurance mandate for businesses.
First, the website glitches are irrelevant and understandable. It happens with technology every day, especially when traffic is huge. Besides, the open enrollment period will last well into 2014. There's a lot of time to resolve these issues.
Next, why did Stewart care about the fact that the insurance mandate won't apply to businesses until 2015? It's been this way since the beginning, and it's for a very good reason: the individual mandate is critical to the funding of the law, so it's important for the mandate to go into effect immediately -- not so much for the 1,000 businesses that currently don't offer insurance policies for workers. Stewart's smart enough to know this, yet his priority appeared to be to market in right-wing myths about the law. I was half-expecting him to wheel out the "Congress is exempt from Obamacare" line. Gratefully, he didn't.
Nevertheless, Sebelius utterly bungled her responses to all of it when she ought to be the one person on this planet who can breeze effortlessly through various debunkings of crap like this. Furthermore, it underlined the Obama administration's aggravating inability to sell this law -- or, at the very least, to explain it.
And finally, I have to say, Stewart showed zero sack by returning from a break to literally accuse Sebelius of lying -- after she had left the studio. And no, she wasn't lying. Stewart simply doesn't understand how the law works. Again, most businesses already offer insurance to employees. But any stragglers will have until 2015 to get it together. Doy. Besides, to repeat, the individual mandate, not the business mandate, is the hinge upon which the entire law hangs. This isn't about fairness, or any perceived corporate favoritism, it's about the practical financing of the system. Doy again.
There are very few shows on TV that are as generally smart and salient as The Daily Show, but it's episodes like this that make me exponentially appreciate The Colbert Report.