Democrats Cleaning House At Blue Cross Blue Shield Of North Dakota

BCBS - web

Last month Blue Cross Blue Shield had a lot of people in political circles in the state scratching their heads with the hire of very partisan Democrat House candidate Pam Gulleson to a new VP position overseeing the company’s government affairs division.

Gulleson’s immediate superior is a former campaign manager for Heidi Heitkamp, making the company look very, very partisan at a time when the state is dominated by Republican leadership.

But it hasn’t stopped there at BCBS. According to very credible sources, long-time BCBS Director of Government Relations Rod St. Aubyn has been let go along with other “upper management people.” I haven’t been able to confirm this with St. Aubyn, but again my source is very credible.

St. Aubyn was a long-time Republican legislator, making his firing seem (at least to this observer) to be politically motivated.

And these moves by BCBS are nothing short of bizarre. At a time when health care, and health insurance, issues are extreme polarizing you’d think the company would want to avoid the appearance of playing politics. Hiring recent Democrat candidates, and apparently expunging Republicans from the company’s ranks, does the exact opposite.

That’s going to make it tough for BCBS to get any traction in a Republican-dominated legislature in the upcoming session.

BCBS is a private company, of course, and can hire and fire whoever they want, but they are the state’s largest health insurance provider by far. Perhaps it’s time for the state’s insurance customers to reconsider giving their business to what is shaping up to be a partisan-orientated business.

Update: A reader emails:

Someone might have to introduce a bill requiring NDPERS to go out for bids on the administration of health insurance. I’m sure there are companies that would love to give it a shot. I doubt it would happen but it would send a message to the BCBSND board that they are playing with fire.

That might get their attention.

Update: I’ve been in touch with St. Aubyn today, and he says it was more exodus than house cleaning:

4 people, 3 executives and myself, left Noridian and were escorted out of the premises after these employees turned in resignations in the past couple of days.  It is my understanding that the 3 executives accepted employment with other employers.  My reasons for leaving were due to my own frustrations with upper administration and not wanting to have to deal with these issues during the next legislative session. 

The optics remain pretty bad for BCBS.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • JW-American

    Holy Crapola.. Rod is a great guy and well versed in all aspects as they develop of Obummercare. I wish him well. flipping asses liberals.. wth??

  • matthew_bosch

    My business left BCBS a year ago for a competitor. Better rates and now it seems better politics with competitor.

    • Clarence A. Herz

      Who is the competitor, I’ll give them a shot fo rmy busines as well?

      • matthew_bosch

        I went with Medica, which is part of United Healthcare. At the time they had recently come into ND and it was a better deal. I believe a couple other bigger guys around Bismarck switched over as well.
        Currently I cover 100% healthcare costs for my employees, which I would like to continue, but with an expected significant increase in cost looming, I will have to serious reassess that benefit.

  • Roy_Bean

    BC/BS is a “not-for-profit mutual insurance company”. There are over 475,000 people with coverage which I think makes them voting members. Their web site says member owned and member driven. In this case the members might have to start driving them in the right direction.

    • nimrod

      As with most co-op companies, members really don’t have much of a voice. Management somehow loads the board up with puppets, and does what they want. Members rarely vote except by proxy.

  • Goon

    Why would anyone hire Pam Gulleson to be VP of anything? Talk about an underwhelming hire.

    • Rob

      Politics I guess, but I’ll be damned if I can see the advantage in it.

    • RCND

      Curry favor with the Democrats now that Obamacare, their pride and joy, has been rammed up our backside?

  • borborygmi

    There you have it the right to work state. You can be fired anytime for any reason. It does seem as if Rob wants to connect political makeup of populace with a quota system for a private company. HE has mentioned several times now that it is surprising a company would hire more democrats in a Republican state. How very progressive of you Rob. Hmm Democratic national ins. program, Democratic national administration. Yep the smart thing would be to hire Conservatives so they could be a burr under the saddle and cost the company millions…….

    • Rob

      Actually, as I said in post, BCBS can hire or fire who they want.

      And I can criticize them.

      You liberals always jump to this conclusion. Just because I think something is s bad decision doesn’t mean I want to ban it.

      • flamemeister

        Liberals would … so they assume others would.

  • geoff

    I wonder if one of Pam’s perks is a reliable car. It’s quite a drive, Rutland to Fargo, ya know

    • RCND

      She will at least be able to pay her property taxes on time now

      • Geoff

        Pretty sure the farm bill does that for her

        • RCND

          It hasn’t before

  • whowon

    Just filled out the latest questionaire from BCBS, last question was is there anything else you want to tell us/ Oh yes, I sure did.

    • RCND

      I’ll be digging mine out of the garbage

  • Tim

    As a former employee of BCBS (I left on my own to pursue another avenue – so I’m not a disgruntled former employee) I can tell you that BCBS (Noridian) is very top heavy with mgmt and VP’s.
    I agree that Gulleson’s hire might be political – but if you want to ask the real question one should ask about the severance packages these mgmt people get. In the last couple years several have gotten over $1 million in severance in addition to their pension and 401K.

    BCBS is still a good old boys club like it has always been.