Over the following months, as political leaders continued to proclaim that the state’s exchange would be a national model, the system went through three different project managers, the feuding between contractors hired to build the online exchange devolved into lawsuits, and key people quit, including a top information technology official because, as he would later say, the project “was a disaster waiting to happen.”
The repeated warnings culminated days before the launch, with one from contractors testing the Web site that said it was “extremely unstable” and another from an outside consultant that urged state officials not to let residents enroll in health plans because there was “no clear picture” of what would happen when the exchange would turn on.
Within moments of its launch at noon Oct. 1, the Web site crashed in a calamitous debut that was supposed to be a crowning moment for Maryland officials who had embraced President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and pledged to build a state-run exchange that would be unparalleled.
Instead, by the next morning only four people had signed up using the Web site — and amazed that anyone had gotten through the system successfully, state officials contacted each of them to make sure they were real. The site’s problems continue to prevent Marylanders from signing up for health insurance. As of Friday, 20,358 people had selected private plans, and state officials have said they do not expect to come close to their initial goal of 150,000 by the end of March.
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