North Dakota Company Better At Politics Than Administering Obamacare Exchange


Correction: Originally this post referred to the op/ed by Mr. Goldberg as an editorial by the Baltimore Sun. That was in error, and the post has been changed to reflect that.

I’ve written before about North Dakota-based Noridian (the parent company of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota) doing a less than exemplary job implementing Maryland’s Obamacare exchange. The company, which lobbied hard for North Dakota to create a state-based exchange of their own, has come under heavy fire for their performance including this blistering op/ed in The Baltimore Sun accusing the company of being better at politics than insurance administration:

Governor O’Malley had hoped to use Maryland’s health exchange as a launching pad for his 2016 campaign. He might want to make other plans. Mr. O’Malley’s administration had no direct experience in building exchanges. Like President Obama, the governor ignored firms with the capability, knowledge and experience in managing large IT projects. Instead, the business went to firms adept at the legal and political maneuvers needed to land big government contracts.

That may explain why the O’Malley administration gave a $67 million contract to Noridian Healthcare Solutions. Noridian is not an IT company. It processes claims for medical equipment like wheelchairs and lab results for Medicare and Medicaid. It also administers North Dakota’s BlueCross BlueShield Plan.

Noridian Administrative Solutions rebranded itself as Noridian Healthcare Solutions in 2013. Chief Executive Officer Tom McGraw stated that Obamacare would be a big source of future revenue growth. The name change was a signal, Mr. McGraw said, that “We’re more than a claims administrator and ready to help states, the federal government and businesses meet the new challenges they face in health care information, systems and support. Noridian’s capabilities have evolved from the complexity of health care delivery.”

The fact is, Noridian had to hire contractors to do everything it promised. None of Noridian’s executives have experience actually building and maintaining information systems for consumer or service-oriented enterprises.

If Maryland Health Benefit Exchange executives were concerned about Noridian, they didn’t show it. On the contrary, at a health IT conference last year Maryland was cited as an early innovator state and well down the path toward being prepared to successfully implement a health information exchange. But as late as April 2013, Noridian had yet to think about the systems and hardware needed for the connectivity required for that purpose.

Later in the op/ed the author, Robert Goldberg who is founder and vice president of Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, asks how the red ink created by this botched attempt to launch the exchange will be paid for. Then the he answers his own question. “Exchanges can assess fees on health plans to pay for cost overruns,” the paper writes. “That means higher taxes or higher premiums on top of a failed system.”

North Dakota rate payers may be on the lookout for hikes in premiums necessitated by Noridian’s failed Maryland adventure.

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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  • Roy_Bean

    So does Pam work for Noridian or BC/BS? She was hired for her vast government experience. Did she have a role in this?

    • Broadway Joe

      FARGO, N.D. — Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND) announced
      today that Pam Gulleson has accepted the position of Vice President of
      Public Affairs. Gulleson will assume the responsibilities of the
      newly-created position in January at the company’s Fargo headquarters.

  • Say It

    This is one of the best articles ever, here on SAB.

  • Yuna Braska

    Rob’s quoting …. Echo… echo…. echo… the same people who were tying to deny tobacco-cancer link.


    Note the dishonest lack of attribution.

    The stupid liar, like a thousand other right wing tools, got the memo, and is peddling, squawking like a trained parrot, the misinformation and propaganda from the Right Wing Ministry of Misinformation…. keeping his stupid fans scared and misinformed with BS

    “…this blistering editorial from The Baltimore Sun….”

    It’s not an editorial… moron…. as the author does not even work for the paper.

    It’s listed under “Commentary” and the author, Robert Goldberg, is a pharmacuetical industry shill, VP of CMPI.

    “The pharmaceutical industry-funded front group Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (CMPI) is helping its corporate funders fight health care reform by disseminating misinformation and orchestrating campaigns to generate fear about health care reform.”

    In short, these are also the same people who were well paid to deny the harmful effects of smoking.

    They currently butter their bread by creating fake disease awareness “public awareness” campaigns, that ultimately scare people and direct them into drug company web sites where they will be sold drugs.

    Once again, Rob is proving that right wing morons and their money are easily parted.

    • joe mauer

      His pooches lap this stuff up. I can only imagine how disappointed most of his minions are becoming with him. There is a difference between spinning a story and downright dishonesty. Tsk tsk tsk.

      • Rob

        I made an error. It’s now been corrected transparently.

        That’s the sort of thing my “minions” expect from me. Accountability.

        What they expect from you is to be here on the blog griping about how wrong and stupid I am even if I said the sky was blue and grass was green.

        • joe mauer

          If you weren’t called out, you wouldn’t make these changes. There is no accountability on your part. Who are you trying to kid?

          • Rob

            Actually, responding positively to someone alerting you of an error is the very definition of accountability.

            When I’m actually wrong, I admit it and fix the mistake. That’s how grownups do it, Joe.

          • joe mauer

            You are only wrong when someone points it out to you. That is how a spoiled brat reacts.

          • Rob

            I think correcting myself after someone points out an error is actually a pretty adult thing to do, I think.

            But, again, you’re the sort of guy who would accuse me of lying if I said the sky was blue, so whatever.


          • Dan

            Why would I admit I was wrong UNLESS someone pointed it out to me? Good grief, get over yourself already…unless, of course, someone DID die and made you god.

            And to Yuna…I got some bad news for you. Smoking doesn’t CAUSE cancer. It can’t be the CAUSE because, quite a few people who smoke 2-3 packs a day for their entire adult lives, don’t succumb. Therefore, it cannot be the cause.

            Mind you, I’m not saying that smoking doesn’t CONTRIBUTE to your body’s inability to stave off the disease, it does…but for it to be the cause, 100% of those who smoke would have to get the disease. One way smoking contributes is that it causes your body to flush vitamin C and ?D? out of your system. Those 2 nutrients keep the fungus and yeasts in your gut from proliferating. You may be wondering why that is worth mentioning. Well, lemme tell ya…in cancer research, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, a cancerous tumor has never been cultured in the absence of fungus. It is the “glue” that holds the tumor together.

            …and thus concludes the physiology lessen for today : )

          • Yuna Braska

            attribution is only the icing on the stupid cake here.

    • Rob

      You’re right. I goofed. Not sure how I read that as an editorial. I missed the commentary label.

      I’ve corrected the post and noted my error.

      I think the points Mr. Goldberg makes stand on their own merits, despite your attempt to discredit them.

      • Yuna Braska


        Again.. you exhibit that you have no clue what a point actually is (using factual and relevant premises to coherently arrive at a conclusion).

        Mr. Goldberg makes no points.

        The first paragraph alone is four or five unsupported and speculative assertions.

        The next paragraph, he points out that the contractor was…OMG… paid.


        Then he goes on to attack Noridian, which is basically one big private insurance exchange itself, helping its customers navigate and shop for a variety of brands of health insurance and healthcare related services, including medicaid and medicare, as somehow not qualified…. and implying that a IT company (a bunch of guys who make web pages and set up servers for CLIENT COMPANIES)…should somehow be the case…. decrying Noridian for contracting out as much too…

        Talk about putting the carriage before the horse stupidity.


        Only a low-info moron without critical thinking skills, somebody just like you, would drink the kool-aid Goldberg is peddling.

        It was pretty clear that Goldberg is engaged in a political hatchet job, which is not grounded in any relevant facts or analysis, but instead in overt and obvious misrepresentation, and trying to manufacture outrage. He was paid to write it, and they paid to have it printed in a paper so that it has the facade of journalistic merit.

        That’s what Goldberg gets paid to do, though.

  • Teresa_10908

    How do I get Tom McGraw’s office contact #, CEO of Noridian ?

  • Teresa_10908

    I am dealing with bureaucrats at Noridian just to get a provider number…
    so pissed:(