HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The state's largest private health insurer missed a deadline to bid on an estimated $13.5 million, three-year contract to manage the state of Montana's employee health plan.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana submitted its proposal on Nov. 18, but not before a 2 p.m. deadline, disqualifying it from competing for the contract that would start in 2013, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported Thursday.

"In the world of public procurement around the nation, late is late, whether its two minutes, two hours or two days," Sheryl Olson, deputy director of the state Department of Administration, told The Associated Press. "We didn't take it lightly that they didn't get in, but we have a rule that says regardless of cause, late is late."

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