A pamphlet for the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, sits on a table at a branch of the Metopolitan Family Health network, on October 3, 2013 in Jersey City, N.J.
A pamphlet for the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, sits on a table at a branch of the Metopolitan Family Health network, on October 3, 2013 in Jersey City, N.J. - 
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The Affordable Care Act is now officially a punch line. Here’s, comedian Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.”




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“The galaxy destroying dark force known as Obamacare was unleashed on an unsuspecting, yet still trusting world,” Stewart riffed in his character's over-the-top style. “How did it go? Just as I thought, Obamacare has exploded the chest cavities of millions of Americans.”

Actually, it’s more like millions of Americans exploded the chest cavity of Obamacare.

A week in, and healthcare.gov -- the gateway to the new federal insurance exchanges -- is still crippled by technical problems.  Many millions of people have gone online to check out the exchanges, but very few have made it across the finish line.

That said, for consumers who are set on moving ahead, the insurance industry is only too happy to help.

Brian Lobley is with Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia, one of several insurers who have set up a workaround. “At the same time healthcare.gov launched, we launched IBXforyou.com which is our shopping site,” Lobley said. Independence Blue Cross and almost all of the other Blue Cross Blue Shield plans around the country have posted their exchange plans on their own functional websites. Many have also included  a calculator to help people looking for coverage figure out if they’re eligible for subsidies.

“So they are actually doing the shopping, doing the browsing and then we are taking down their name and number, so we can enroll them in the near future,” says Lobley.

That’s the plan anyway. But it might not be the best course for consumers, said Sonya Schwartz, of Georgetown’s University Center for Children and Families.  She said shopping on a single site has its downsides. People won’t be able to “compare networks, or benefits, or out of pocket costs. The idea is that information will be clearer if [consumers] go to the state or federal marketplace.”   

So long as it is up and running soon, said University of Pennsylvania health economist Robert Town. “If these glitches continue to persist for another month or so, then I think other people get frustrated. They will say I tried over and over and it’s just too much of a pain,” says Town.

Which brings us back to Jon Stewart. While he skewered the online exchanges, he directed his sharpest criticism at us.

“Let’s get one thing straight about this country. We will camp out all night to be the first people to buy a phone or see a movie about shirtless werewolves,” he said.  “But you got 10 minutes to get me this #*!@#^!!* health care.  You understand what I’m talking about?”

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Follow Dan Gorenstein at @dmgorenstein