That may mean moving to the federal exchange, using another state's system, developing a consortium with other states or fixing the existing site.

At least three other states that chose to run their own exchanges are facing such technical troubles. One, Minnesota, also uses the same Curam software. Gov. Mark Dayton recently wrote to IBM and told them they had a responsibility to send reinforcements to fix the site.

Maryland and Minnesota may have tried to do too much customizing, said Rick Howard, a research director at Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company who has closely watched the exchange roll-outs.

He also said it appears the systems necessary for the exchange to work weren't well integrated and the website wasn't fully tested — problems also associated with other exchanges.

"Gartner had been advising clients from the moment the Affordable Care Act was signed into law that there wasn't enough time to build and test the kind of health insurance exchanges that were envisioned," Howard said.

Most of the other 14 exchanges built and operated by states were largely fixed by the beginning of January, he said. Maryland is among four — the others are Minnesota, Oregon and Massachusetts — with the most "sustained and severe" problems.

IBM and Noridian are focusing on what does work.

"We are seeing more than 95 percent of consumers entering the site now having a positive experience," said Mitch Derman, an IBM spokesman. "IBM continues to work with Noridian, who is responsible for the overall implementation; our partner subcontractors, and the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange to enhance the performance of the state's health insurance marketplace."

Tom McGraw, Noridian's president and CEO, added that the company "believes that system improvements to the exchange over the past three months have significantly increased the system's ease of use as well as the output in terms of consumer enrollments."

But that doesn't help those with applications still stuck in the system, including Kia Jacobson of Takoma Park. She's self-employed as a personal assistant and tried over several months to enroll in health coverage through the exchange.

"After multiple log-ins and phone calls, two completed applications — one is incorrect, and had to be abandoned — a third incomplete application, incorrect subsidy results, and a myriad of other problems … and I'm unsure as to whether I have health care coverage," she wrote in an email to The Baltimore Sun.

"I'm so disgusted that my tax dollars have been spent on such a flawed process that should have been stopped in its tracks months, if not years ago," she said.

An earlier version misstated the name of Mitch Derman. The Sun regrets the error.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com