Nortman has tried repeatedly to browse for policies on the exchange and to get technical help to resolve the error messages. He wants to find a better deal on a health plan than those offered by his and his wife's employers. The premiums for both jumped substantially this year for their family of four.

He also said he made an appointment with a navigator, who didn't show up. He drove to other locations where he heard navigators would be in Anne Arundel County but didn't have any luck. He said he planned to keep trying by phone and computer. His family's current policy comes up for renewal in the coming days.

"I've been trying since Day 5 after the website opened and have had zero success," Nortman said. "I also drove all over Anne Arundel County looking for help. I blew my half-day off work trying to figure this out."

Some, like Marty Chase, who lives in Chevy Chase and is self-employed, are pleased the state is keeping his plan for now.

He's enrolled in the Maryland Health Insurance Plan, which state officials confirmed would be extended until March for the 2,000 enrollees who were set see their coverage expire in December. Another 18,000 are enrolled in the plan and many face expiration in June, though state law allows the plan to remain in effect until 2020, and no decision has been made on terminating it.

"The Maryland health exchange policies are inferior to the old MHIP policies," Chase said.

Joshua Sharfstein, secretary of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said officials are trying to "ensure a smooth transition" for those in MHIP.

DeMarco, the health care advocate, said his goal with the hotline is to make sure the uninsured don't give up on getting coverage. His ad campaign will feature stars from the professional-football community and will run for two months. Through the 211 call center run by the United Way, receptionists will route callers to the exchange call center and to navigators in their area who can sign them up for Medicaid or another state program, or start the paperwork for private insurance.

Exchange officials, meanwhile, continue work on the online marketplace.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

Tribune reporter Noam N. Levey contributed to this article.