What are they thinking?
BCBS of ND hires a Democrat, Paul von Ebers as their CEO. That wouldn’t bother most but then he hires Denise Kolpack a known Democrat operative, and former campaign manager for North Dakota’s junior Senator Heidi Heitkamp, as Chief of Staff. Even that might be passed over as a legitimate move based on the onslaught called Obamacare and the rules and regulations that are sure to be coming from the feds implementing this onerous law.
Now Kolpack and von Ebers have hired Pam Gulleson as VP for Public Affairs. I could hardly believe it. Even if Mr. von Ebers is totally naïve and has little understanding of the politics of North Dakota it is one of the stupidest decisions I have heard of. The board at BCBS is either oblivious to political reality or is so enamored with their new CEO that they are willing to put the future of BCBS on the line.
BCBS has enjoyed a unique place in the laws of North Dakota. Over the years the legislature has treated BCBS with extreme care. In fact some have accused the legislature of pandering itself to the management of the iconic health insurance provider. The symbiotic relationship was easy enough to understand. BCBS provided health insurance to 70% of North Dakota’s private pay citizens. They also administered the state’s health plan for North Dakota Public Employees. BCBS was a non-profit started by North Dakota physicians and hospitals. Given all of the above it was quite plain that the legislature as a whole would not want to cause serious problems that would affect many of the citizens of North Dakota.
Because of this symbiotic relationship BCBS was able to maintain its market share. In fact the legislature made policy decisions that aided BCBS in their ability to keep significant competition from entering the North Dakota market.
Now I wonder how any health insurers will survive if we go all the way with the Democrat dream of government health care? Who will need to buy health insurance if we adopt the Canadian or United Kingdom model? Maybe BCBS intends to metamorphose into the total administrator of government health care in North Dakota?
In the mean time they can forget any good feelings the Republican dominated state government might have had. Sorry to say, Mrs. Gulleson was one of the most partisan hacks I ever served with. Her diatribes accusing Republican leaders of nefarious activity or of putting the citizens second when they made public policy decisions were numerous and filled with venomous remarks. When she rose to speak on an issue most Republicans would think “here we go again another lecture having little to do with the issue at hand”. Politicians like Gulleson do little to move public policy forward. Their main contribution, if you can call it that, is to polarize the debate making any kind of compromise difficult if not impossible.
There are Democrats who could have taken this job and received a very warm welcome in the 63rd Legislative Assembly. Mrs. Gulleson, I believe, should and will receive just the opposite. I believe that BCBS will find a cool reception to any initiatives they might have in mind. BCBS of ND has made some employee choices that will not sit well in the halls of the State Capitol. The board of BCBS may think it is in their best interest, but I would hope the Republicans remember the past. None of the new management hires at BCBS will be supporters of Republican agendas or Republican candidates thus they certainly don’t deserve the support of Republican legislators.
It would be my hope that the 63rd legislature evens the playing field for other health insurers to enter North Dakota’s market.
It has always been a mystery to me why Democrats think they can demonize Republicans and then expect Republicans to forgive and forget. Republicans are always supposed to compromise their values so the Democrats can move their agenda forward. In the case of BCBS of North Dakota I don’t know what the agenda is, but if I were them I would be sending Mrs. Gulleson to lobby the US Senate where all her friends are.
Didn’t this past election serve to prove Gulleson burned her North Dakota bridges behind her years ago?