CMS chief: We didn't try to 'deceive' the public

The health official under fire for misreporting ObamaCare enrollment numbers insisted Tuesday that the error was “inadvertent” and not a scheme to inflate the figures.

“I do not believe anyone tried to deceive the American people. I do believe the error was inadvertent,” Marilyn Tavenner, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“This was an inadvertent mistake for which I apologize,” she said.

It was Tavenner’s first public appearance since the committee’s investigation last month revealed that the agency inflated the number of enrollments by about 400,000, by counting customers with dental-only plans.

Republicans have accused Tavenner of trying to inflate enrollment totals to reach ObamaCare's initial 7 million target. The actual figure was 6.7 million, officials from HHS said.

Tavenner said Tuesday that it was “a very large number. We are pleased with that number.”

She added that the agency has put “processes in place” to ensure better reporting in the future. The agency has created a new data office, tapped its first chief data officer and is now releasing “weekly snapshots” of the 2015 marketplace data.

Tavenner faced tough questioning from both Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who demanded to know how the error happened when she knew “everybody's got a microscope on the program.”

“While this mistake was regrettable, it shouldn’t obscure the fact that the Affordable Care Act is working,” Tavenner said.

Hours before the hearing, the health agency turned over 19,000 pages of ObamaCare enrollment data in response to a committee request.

The documents include details about enrollment in medical plans as well as stand-alone dental plans, which “date back to the earliest days of marketplace coverage,” according to an HHS official.