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Keep it quiet! Feds allegedly tell North Dakota to not release exchange numbers

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 24th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

They've been told to keep quiet about it - The Obama administration has reportedly asked North Dakota's largest health insurer not to give out how many people have signed up for health insurance through a new online exchange. People have already rushed to deny it - but conflicting stories typically emerge when talking about health care reform.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - James Nichol of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota told an audience that his company received the request from the federal government on Monday. Speaking at a forum in Fargo for people interested in signing up for coverage by the exchange, Nichol is a consumer sales manager.

A spokeswoman from Blue Cross Blue Shield clarified that about 14 North Dakotans have signed up for coverage since the federal exchange went live October 1, bringing total statewide enrollment to 20, which is tragically less than a single customer daily.

While Blue Cross generally does not release its internal sales numbers, it has in this case because the problematic roll out of the federal health care exchange is a "unique situation," spokeswoman Andrea Dinneen says. Dinneen didn't have any information about the directive Nichol referenced at the forum.

An official from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would not address questions about the request made of Blue Cross Blue Shield, which included whether other insurers were also asked to keep quiet about enrollment. The company is one of the main the federal agencies handling the federal marketplace.

Two other North Dakota companies offering coverage on the federal exchange, Medica and Sanford Health, claimed that they had not received similar directions.

In several of the 14 states that set up their own marketplace, such as Minnesota have released some preliminary numbers. Minnesota officials said that about 3,700 last week had begun the process of enrollment.

However - in North Dakota, alongside 35 other states that let the federal government take the lead on the exchange, insurers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield remain the only avenue to get enrollment figures until federal officials release statistics. That time is expected to be in mid-November.

The exchanges route health insurance shoppers to providers that offer plans that qualify for the various rules and regulations of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka "Obamacare."

Nichol said he had no further information about the administration's instructions, in an interview after the Blue Cross Blue Shield event at the Ramada in Fargo.

Medica spokesman Greg Bury said the company had received enrollment files but had not yet verified them and thus did not have an enrollment count.

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