MARYLAND

Maryland Health Exchange was primed to fail before it launched, documents say

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(WJLA) - Maryland state officials were warned nearly a year before its Affordable Care Act web portal launched that it was doomed to fail from the start, officials say.

As first reported by the Washington Post, the Maryland Health Exchange website was plagued with a litany of problems in the run-up to its October 2013 launch. Those problems included labeling the site as unstable and a revolving door of leaders and personnel.

While federal officials plodded through the launch of healthcare.gov over its first few weeks, it took almost no time for Maryland's online health care exchange to crash.

It was so bad that only four people successfully signed up for health coverage on the first day it was offered. Even then, according to the Post's original report, Maryland officials contacted each of those people to ensure that they were actual people.

The story of Maryland resident Neffe Morris is becoming all too typical - he simply wasn't able to use the site.

"It was down for a while, then it came back up," Morris said. "It said it was going to email me instructions, and after that I wasn't able to do anything."

The website's failure is becoming a major issue in the state's governor's race, especially because Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown - as candidate Brown - has been boasting about his leadership on the issue for three years.

When problems surfaced in October with the $170 million website, he claimed he wasn't involved in its day-to-day operations. However, the Post reports that consultants hired to build the site warned state officials that "disaster loomed."

"My role and responsibility was to establish the legislative framework for the exchange," Brown said.

Meanwhile, his rival in the gubernatorial election, Attorney General Doug Gansler, has seized the opportunity.

"One would think if you spot somebody $170 million to put up a website so people can enroll in a program, that it would be able to get done," Gansler said.

Some questions may be answered at a state house hearing, scheduled for Tuesday, on an emergency bill designed to cover people who haven't been able to sign up. Brown is scheduled to testify.

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