Insurer pokes fun at Obamacare glitches in new ad

An insurance agent helps a woman navigate insurance options.
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Comedians have had a field day poking fun at the troubled rollout of the Obamacare website HealthCare.gov. Now, one Midwest insurer is getting in on the act.

Iowa-based Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield is running a series of lighthearted commercials in Iowa and South Dakota, where it is the largest provider of individual insurance, that show a patient encountering problems at the doctor's office.

In one of the more slapstick spots, he can't get a container open while he's desperate to be able to provide a urine sample.

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"Things don't always work like they're supposed to," the narrator says. "Good thing the government exchange website isn't the only place to buy health insurance."

The insurer can afford to poke fun. It deliberately chose to wait out the first-year rollout of the Affordable Care Act by not offering plans on the government-run exchange in 2014.

"We know that some of our members and some consumers will be better served by getting plans on the exchange," said Wellmark spokeswoman Traci McBee. "But that's not the only place to buy health insurance—just the newest."

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Still, the Wellmark campaign is a marked departure from the more generic ads most insurers are running in connection with the ACA's open enrollment this fall, said Elizabeth Wilner of media buying firm Kantar Media.

"It's not unusual for one service provider to try and capitalize on another's misfortune in advertising," Wilner said. What is remarkable is that the competition in this case is the government's troubled website.

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"It all speaks to the unprecedented situation we're in," she said.

Wellmark's McBee said her company is expecting to offer plans in 2015 on the Iowa and South Dakota exchanges, which are run off of the HealthCare.gov site.

Even as they poke fun now, the goal is to help clear up confusion for those who believe everyone has to buy an exchange plan. That's not so. Consumers can still buy directly from their insurer or through a broker.

"We are making sure people know the options they had in the past still exist," McBee said.

—By CNBC's Bertha Coombs. Follow her on Twitter: @berthacoombs.