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.