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Blue Cross says official was wrong; feds didn't ask BCBS to withhold enrollment data

FARGO – Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota says a company official “misunderstood internal discussions” when he said the Obama administration asked the state’s largest health insurer to keep quiet about how many people had enrolled so far through a new online exchange.

Spokeswoman Andrea Dineen said in a statement Wednesday that the company had received no such request from the federal government.

At a company-organized forum on the ins and outs of Obamacare in Fargo on Monday, consumer sales manager James Nichol told the crowd the Obama administration had earlier that day asked Blue Cross not to release enrollment numbers.

An official from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, one of the main the federal agencies handling the federal marketplace, would not directly address questions about the alleged request, including whether other insurers were also asked to keep quiet about enrollment.

Representatives from the two other North Dakota companies offering coverage on the federal exchange – Medica and Sanford Health – said they had not received similar directions.

Twenty North Dakotans have enrolled for health insurance through the new federal health exchange, according to figures from the three North Dakota companies offering coverage on the marketplace since it went live on Oct. 1.

The exchange is an online marketplace where health insurance is sold. They are one of the key aspects of the health insurance reforms supported by President Barack Obama commonly known as Obamacare.

Officials in many of the 14 states that set up their own marketplace, which includes Minnesota, have released some preliminary numbers. Minnesota officials said last week that about 3,700 had begun the process of enrolling for health insurance through the marketplace, called MNsure.

But in North Dakota and the 35 other states that let the federal government take the lead on the exchange, releases from individual insurers have been the only avenue to get enrollment figures until federal officials release statistics, likely sometime in mid-November.

The federal exchange has been plagued by widespread glitches since it went live about three weeks ago.

Kyle Potter, INFORUM

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