Obamacare Web site mocked by, yes, insurance company

Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield decides to launch three ads that tell people to avoid the Healthcare.gov Web site, because its own site works so much better.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read
Such a struggle. Wellmark/Ad Age screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

A couple of days ago, I received two letters from my health insurance company.

One welcomed me to its autopay system -- which was a touch odd, given that I had been in its autopay system for many years.

The second told me that I was about to have my health insurance cut off, as I hadn't paid my monthly bill.

Please forgive me, then, if I'm not bathed in admiration for the way health insurance companies do business. There is one, however, that wants me (and you) to believe it's the apogee of efficiency.

Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield wants you to know that the Obamacare Web site is just a painful affair, while its Web site will cure you of all ills.

I am grateful to AdAge for revealing three ads that this no doubt fine, efficient, and gloriously well-priced insurance company has released in Iowa and South Dakota.

These ads portray health-related situations that somehow go wrong. There's the urine sample jar that won't open, the blood pressure gauge that insists on farting, and the reflex test that causes the wrong knee to react.

The words offer you enormous comfort in this hour of your need: "Things don't always work like they're supposed to do. Good thing the government exchange isn't the only place to buy health insurance."

It's a persuasive argument. Why stand in line at Costco when Whole Foods can look after all your needs for far more money?

The Obamacare Web site launch has been quite a stellar embarrassment, one that sadly could have been avoided. Launching a new product with such abject online incompetence is risible for an administration that prided itself on its technological brains.

Somehow, though, there's always this nagging feeling with insurance companies -- and, indeed, with the whole health industry -- that the drive for a buck (with the frequent assistance of technology) is often at the expense of its customers' mental, as well as financial, health.

I admit that, having grown up in a country where one could go to a hospital without having to produce a credit card, I am biased.

I was admitted to a New Jersey hospital a couple of years ago, after an ex tried to poison me with a piece of tainted beef. (All right, I'm making up the reason here.)

I gave the hospital my insurance details. One year later, they still claimed they didn't have these details and were demanding full payment. Every time I'd call, the hospital's technology would put me on hold and, after 10 minutes, cut me off.

Twice, I got through to a voice mail service. My calls weren't returned.

A letter to the hospital's CEO (its Web site offered no e-mail address for him) was rewarded with no reply.

So any sort of health company touting its technological ease and efficiency is treading on quite difficult ground.

A Wellmark spokeswoman told AdAge: "The ad campaign is designed to use humor to get attention so that we can share the message that there is more than one option to purchase health insurance."

How very helpful. And, perhaps, lucrative for Wellmark.

I just went to the Wellmark Web site, and it actually seems to work.

Indeed, when you go to its "What Matters?" page, you are offered answers to questions -- the first being: "Wait...Now I Need Health Insurance?" (Because before you just had a very large limit on your credit card, right?)

The next most important question: "Why Did My Premiums Go Up?"

To this question, Wellmark offers a highly objective answer: "Premiums increase because the cost of health care increases...For everyone."

No, we can't have premiums going down, can we?