By Pat Warren

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—Gov. Martin O’Malley declares the state’s health care exchange “functional,” a huge step up from the admitted “big mess” that it was on Oct. 1.

But as political reporter Pat Warren explains, if you don’t make the deadline for coverage starting in January, you won’t be alone.

Tangled in the web and the deadlines add to the stress.

“Very frustrating for me because I need insurance so badly,” said June Miles Mays.

She is not alone.

Maryland’s Affordable Health Care web site has mirrored the failures of the federal system, but Monday Gov. O’Malley announced that 900 people were able to sign up successfully on Friday, a record.

“We’re hoping to sign up, by the end of March, roughly 4-5 percent of our population, and we’re still on that track. Some people won’t sign up on their own volition by Jan. 1, but anyone who wants to we want to help them do that as well. And that’s why we didn’t delay the launch of this, even though we knew it would be very imperfect, rocky and riddled with some serious user problems,” O’Malley said.

The governor calls the website functional for most Marylanders but acknowledges there will be those who try and will not able to meet the deadline.

“I think all of us would acknowledge due to the state and the federal government’s inability. It would have been nice if it all worked perfect on Oct. 1. That didn’t happen, so we’re getting it up as quickly as we can, and we’re making it better by degrees,” O’Malley said.

Lawmakers who have been hearing from frustrated constituents since the website launch Oct. 1 can expect to hear more from those who cannot meet the deadline for coverage Jan. 1. They’ll be looking at those issues when they reconvene Jan. 8.

The governor says Carefirst has agreed to extend its deadline to Dec. 27 to help more people sign up for coverage beginning Jan. 1.

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