Americans voting with their 'feet' on Obamacare

This Reuters headline is not good news for the administration:

Frustrated by, some consumers buy off exchange

Americans are abandoning the site and buying insurance the old fashioned way; calling the companies directly.

Since its launch on October 1, technical problems have stalled, the website meant to help millions of uninsured Americans sign up for coverage as part of the biggest U.S. social program since Medicare plans for the elderly launched in the 1960s.

Nearly a dozen insurance companies offering plans on the exchange who were interviewed by Reuters say they have received at most a trickle of enrollments through the federal marketplace serving 36 states, some of them with errors that require the insurers to separately verify information about applicants.

At the same time, consumer inquiries at insurance company call centers and websites are up, in some case even double the amount of normal traffic. When they hear from potential customers who appear to qualify for government subsidized plans, they take phone numbers, create shopping baskets for the plans they like and send them to to verify eligibility.

But if the shoppers do not qualify for a subsidy, insurers say they sell them a plan directly. More often than not, those plans are individual policies that are not available on the government-run exchange.

Health First Health Plans in Florida, one of nine insurers selling individual plans in the state through, has sold only a handful of exchange-based plans through the government marketplace.

But its phones have been ringing "off the hook" since October 1, said Jason Alford, director of individual and marketplace sales. Many of the sales are for plans that extend coverage from 2013 into 2014 and that do not include many of the government program's most significant benefit requirements.

"We have begun taking a number of off-exchange applications," Alford said.

A chain of five Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance plans, including BCBS of Texas and BCBS of Oklahoma, said it is also sending buyers who qualify for subsidies to the exchange, while those who do not qualify for subsidies have been buying off exchange plans more often.

"I'm very hopeful that individuals will come back and purchase the product," said Kurt Kossen, vice president of retail at parent company Health Care Service Corp, referring to customers who get information about a plan but do not buy it on the spot.

The only place that consumers can get the subsidy is on the exchanges. This was to insure that insurance companies who particpated in the exchanges would have a captive market for their products. But with a non-functional website with no prospect that it will start to work as advertised anytime soon, people would apparently rather buy insurance from the company directly. This means it is extremely unlikely that very many of the young invinciblers Obamacare needs to avoid meltdown will sign up.