Remember what a hero North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm was when -- just a few months before the 2008 election -- Hamm denied a rate increase request by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBS)? Remember what Hamm said about the requested rate increase?
“Blue Cross Blue Shield did not substantiate this rate increase request, misled the Insurance Department concerning payments to health care providers, and stonewalled the department when it sought information. As a result, I denied this request,” Commissioner Adam Hamm said in a statement Friday.
AdamHamm.com (copied and pasted from an AP story)
Oops. Turns out someone was misleading someone, but it wasn't Blue Cross Blue Shield doing the misleading and it wasn't Adam Hamm being misled.
A decision came out last week from an Administrative Law Judge asked by BCBS to review Hamm's work. It appears Adam Hamm was the one doing the misleading. Here's part of the decision:
In sum, (a) BCBSND established that the rate requested was in compliance with N.D.C.C. § 26.1-30-19 in that the projected (and justified) loss ratio is greatly in excess of the 55% statutory and regulatory minimum and benefits provided would not be unreasonable in relation to the premium charge at the requested increased level, and the Department did not rebut the same; (b) the Commissioner did not base his decision to deny the rate request on actuarially sound principles and practices, and the decision not to allow any rate increase was without substantial justification; and (c) BCBSND's Bank Depositor filing was received May 2, 2008, and the Commissioner did not provide notice of an extension in writing within sixty days after the filing, thus BCBSND was entitled to implement the requested rate increase on its Bank Depositor line of business as of July 1, 2008.
The ALJ's Decision (emphasis added)
Notice that? Part (c)? He missed a deadline. Does anybody wonder why he wanted this to get pushed closer to November? It wouldn't be because he wanted to hold a media event right before the election, would it? He wasn't trying to manipulate the media AND the voters, was he? This almost looks like the sort of thing that would be considered malpractice if Hamm had been on the right side of this issue and had been working in the private sector. It appears he missed a deadline and it could have cost his clients -- us -- quite a bit, had he not been completely in the wrong. In some twisted way, Hamm is lucky his denial of the rate inrease was unsupported by facts, evidence, logic or the law.
Listen... Nobody wants an Insurance Commissioner who rubber stamps rate increases for monopolistic (or nearly monopolistic) insurance companies. That's the last thing I'd ever want, and it's not what this is about. What this is about is an insurance commissioner who appears to have used his position as an elected insurance regulator to misrepresent the facts to the voters in an effort to garner political favor when his actions are completely unjustified. That's what this looks like.
Adam Hamm played North Dakota's voters for a bunch of suckers. Many North Dakota voters fell for it. That same bunch won't likely have the long-term memory to hold Hamm accountable next time he's up for election. Maybe some of us will.
North Dakota deserves better.