Kathleen Sebelius (AP photo/Al Behrman)

A White House reporter is asking why the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gave out interim exchange activity numbers last week.

Since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act exchange open enrollment period started Oct. 1, HHS officials have repeatedly refused to give reporters or others detailed interim exchange application or enrollment data.

HHS officials have insisted that the department will give activity numbers once a month, and only once a month, after they have checked data from the HHS-run and state-based exchanges for completeness and accuracy.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius then announced last week, at a speech in Florida, that the exchange system had received private-plan selection information for 3 million people as of mid-January.

A reporter asked at a White House press briefing why Sebelius had released “good news data” several weeks before the release data of the next monthly exchange activity report.

“So, is there going to be more frequent updating?” a reporter asked, according to a briefing transcript. “Is there a change in the policy?”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney referred questions about the data to HHS. 

“What I can tell you is that the approach we’ve taken as an administration has been to make sure that the data we release is clear and not duplicative, and scrubbed and vetted,” Carney said. “And that process has become more efficient as the whole system has become more efficient.”

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