North Dakota is a very Republican state. Every statewide office is controlled by Republicans, and the legislature has a super majority of Republicans in the House and the Senate. And yet BCBS thought it would be in their best interest to hire former Democrat House candidate Pam Gulleson (see the press release here) who was easily defeated by Republican Kevin Cramer during the past election by almost 55% to 42%. A margin that would almost assuredly have been wider had Libertarian Candidate Eric Olsen not pulled roughly 10,000 votes from Cramer’s total.
This pick by BCBS makes the company look very partisan, and very liberal, at a time when health insurance policy issues are extremely polarized.
BCBS CEO Paul von Ebers has previously stated publicly that he registered as a Democrat when he was working and living in New York. This new VP position for which Gulleson was hired reports to Denise Kolpack, Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff. Kolpack is the former campaign manager for Heidi Heitkamp, running the Senator-elect’s failed gubernatorial campaign against John Hoeven in 2000.
Pam Gulleson was Chief of Staff for Sen. Byron Dorgan and, during her time serving in the state House, was something less than supportive of many issues of concern for businesses (which came out during her US House campaign). Gulleson was also a supporter of Obamacare, though wasn’t outspoken about it during her recent House campaign for obvious reasons, and at one point supported instituting a single-payer government health care system in North Dakota.
Now Gulleson will also be in charge of the Government Relations Department at BCBS. BCBS has been a strong advocate for the unpopular Obamacare health insurance exchanges and more recently the so-called “partnership exchanges.” It’s hard to imagine how BCBS, already backing some health care/insurance issues that are unpopular int he state, will better their position by bringing on board such a partisan and divisive figure as Gulleson.
It will be tough sledding for BCBS during the next legislative session in the Republican controlled legislature.