A financial dispute over the sale of Partners National Health Plans of North Carolina has led to a lawsuit filed against Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Officials with Novant Health Inc. have sued Blue Cross, which bought Partners from Novant in October for $202 million.

Blue Cross filed an internal claim against Novant in December, saying that Partners' earnings projections for Novant had been wrong. Novant had failed to tell Blue Cross about $1.4 million in outstanding accounts, Blue Cross said.

Novant's lawsuit asks that it be protected from any amount that Blue Cross might claim to be owed.

Blue Cross claimed that Partner's 2001 pre-tax income was overstated. Blue Cross also said it might have to write off the $1.4 million in money owed, according to the lawsuit. Novant officials claim that they told Blue Cross about the $1.4 million.

In the lawsuit, Novant said that officials did notify Blue Cross about changes in the financial condition in June, before the sale was completed.

Novant agreed to bring the price down from $210 million to $202 million.

Blue Cross is now absorbing nearly all the Partners' brands into Blue Cross products. The combined company has 2.5 million customers — the largest health insurer in the state.