House Speaker Michael E. Busch predicted there would be plenty of inquires into the problems with the Maryland exchange because it's "incumbent on us to make sure it works for everybody."

Maryland was among 16 states and the District of Columbia that created their own exchanges rather than use the federal version.

Emails and other documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun show that even before it launched, Maryland's exchange was beset by technical problems — as well as a dispute between prime contractor Noridian Healthcare Solutions and a key subcontractor, EngagePoint Inc. Weeks after the launch, EngagePoint was fired, and the director of the exchange later resigned.

Despite the revelations about widespread problems, most Democratic lawmakers in Annapolis and Washington have not publicly criticized the O'Malley administration and its mission to repair the site.

O'Malley, who appointed Brown as Maryland's point man for implementing the reforms known as Obamacare, said criticism of the state site's failure has been loud and persistent from people frustrated about signing up.

The governor said last week that the state has made enough progress that "we're almost at a point where we can unleash our marketing plan," which was suspended when the system crashed.

The state has kept its goal of signing up 150,000 people in private plans by the tax deadline, March 31. As of Dec. 7, about 5,200 people in Maryland had enrolled in plans through the exchange.

Officials expect close to 100,000 low-income adults to move into the expanded Medicaid program in the new year, and about 17,000 have successfully signed up for that plan through the Maryland exchange.

Like many Democrats in Annapolis last week, Busch continued to express optimism that the exchange could be repaired.

"Everyone, of any political affiliation, has been disappointed with the rollout we've had in the state of Maryland, but we have faith in the administration and the secretary of health to work out all of the kinks," he said.

Even when legislators held hearings this fall, some Democrats said they deliberately held back.

"We understand the kind of pressure and monumental challenge this represents," said Del. Kirill Reznik, a Montgomery County Democrat and member of the House Health and Government Operations Committee. "We're trying to be as productive participants as possible rather than sitting on a panel and grilling people. I'd rather they be fixing the problem rather than sitting before us telling us what they are trying to do."

Sen. President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, said public rebukes may have been tempered both because Democrats want the exchange to work and because with so many state agencies, contractors and subcontractors involved, "it gets real confusing who the finger should be pointed at."

A large share of the political blowback has hit Brown, who made leadership on implementing health care reform a central pillar in his campaign for governor.

Brown has been endorsed by much of the Maryland Democratic establishment, but his chief rival for the party nomination has pounced on the rocky rollout of President Barack Obama's signature health care law as a point of attack.

"There are Democrats across the country dancing and dodging what went wrong," Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler said last week. "No one is living in a fantasy land here. Maryland should have been a leader in this."

Gansler said that highlighting the botched rollout is not criticism of the federal law, which he supports, or of Obama. But he called the problems "embarrassing for our state. ... Places like Kentucky are blowing our doors off."

Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley, a Frederick County Republican, said last week that the public show of support — or the lack of public criticism — belies the private anger he's heard from Democrats.

"I know that behind the scenes, they're furious," Brinkley said. "They have so much at stake because they blindly supported this. ... It's a major, major embarrassment."

Baltimore Sun reporters Meredith Cohn and Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.

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