Se­be­lius in the com­edy arena,

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Out­liers has to ad­mit, we love po­lit­i­cal satire. So when HHS Sec­re­tary Kath­leen Se­be­lius sat down last week with a mas­ter of the form, Jon Ste­wart, on “The Daily Show,” we had to tune in. The for­mer Kansas gov­er­nor may not have ex­pected the se­ries of fed­eral health pol­icy fast­balls she faced, but she man­aged to avoid­ing whiff­ing on all but a cou­ple of them.

Dur­ing her Jan. 23 ap­pear­ance on the Com­edy Cen­tral show, Se­be­lius faced a se­ries of de­tailed ques­tions on var­i­ous im­ple­men­ta­tion de­tails of the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act.

The law’s pro­vi­sions have re­sulted in 2.5 mil­lion “young Amer­i­cans” gain­ing in­sur­ance cov­er­age, “thou­sands” of peo­ple have re­ceived cov­er­age un­der its high-risk pools and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has gained “over­sight” of in­sur­ance plans, she said.

Ste­wart, the com­edy show’s host, chal­lenged Se­be­lius on her un­ex­pected decision to al­low some state flex­i­bil­ity in de­ter­min­ing the es­sen­tial ben­e­fits pack­age of min­i­mal cov­er­age that all plans in state-based in­sur­ance ex­changes must of­fer in 2014. Se­be­lius pointed out that such state vari­a­tion will oc­cur only within fed­eral “ground rules” that in­clude 10 cat­e­gories of care that all of the plans must cover.

Ste­wart also asked whether the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is pre­par­ing to set up fed­eral ex­changes in states that refuse to es­tab­lish such mar­ket­places them­selves. “You bet,” Se­be­lius said. How­ever, when Ste­wart raised con­cerns that plans that did not meet the law’s stan­dards would sim­ply re­ceive waivers, Se­be­lius said “there were a cou­ple of com­pa­nies where the con­sumers had no other choice” that had re­ceived tem­po­rary waivers.

That doesn’t re­flect the lat­est to­tals from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, which re­ported on Jan. 8 that re­quire­ments were waived through 2013 for 1,231 plans cov­er­ing 3.3 mil­lion work­ers.

Ste­wart also re­peat­edly pressed Se­be­lius on whether em­ploy­ers would “dump” their work­ers on health ex­changes af­ter they are es­tab­lished in 2014 as a cost-sav­ing. That is a touchy sub­ject for the ad­min­is­tra­tion, which pushed back hard on pre­vi­ous pro­jec­tions that cre­ation of the ex­changes would lead to tens of mil­lions of em­ploy­ees los­ing their em­ployer-spon­sored cov­er­age.

Af­ter his third time ask­ing about em­ployer “dump­ing,” Se­be­lius said, “No, I think it will cre­ate a mar­ket for in­di­vid­ual pur­chasers.”

You can watch the full in­ter­view at bit.ly/zopfek and bit.ly/wb0mgw.

Se­be­lius brought some health pol­icy fo­cus to “The Daily Show.”

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