ND Insurance Commissioner Hamm won't seek re-election next year

BISMARCK - North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm will step down after nine years in the job when he completes his second term next year, he said Tuesday.
North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm

BISMARCK – North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm will step down after nine years in the job when he completes his second term next year, he said Tuesday.

The Republican said he'd been debating for a couple of months whether to seek a third term and decided not to run in November 2016.

Hamm has spent a considerable share of his time in office dealing with reforms under the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank consumer protection act.

"In some ways, that nine years has kind of been like dog years," he joked.

The 44-year-old was appointed insurance commissioner in October 2007 by then-Gov. John Hoeven after previous commissioner Jim Poolman resigned that August to take a private-sector job as an insurance industry consultant.

Hamm said he doesn't have another job lined up.

"I don't have any definite plans in mind, and the reason for that is I intend to keep doing this job for the next 13 months," he said.

Hamm won his first four-year term as insurance commissioner in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012. An alumnus of Sam Houston State University in Texas and a 1998 graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Law, he had previously worked in private practice and in the Cass County State's Attorney's Office in Fargo, notably prosecuting Kyle Bell for the murder of 11-year-old Jeanna North of Fargo.

Early in his tenure as insurance commissioner, Hamm presided over a critical examination of the administrative expenses at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota. Auditors focused on travel spending, incentive pay and other areas after publicity over a controversial reward trip for sales staff at a Cayman Islands resort. That report led to the ouster of Mike Unhjem as chief executive officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield in 2009.

More recently, Hamm tightened requirements of subsidiary firms of the North Dakota Blues in the wake of a $45 million settlement for a botched health insurance exchange created for the state of Maryland, a financial debacle that led to the firing last year of Paul von Ebers, Unhjem's successor.

Among his biggest accomplishments, Hamm listed the expanded competition and choice of health insurance providers and products in the state, "tens of millions of dollars" in consumer relief and his four years as an officer with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, including a year as president in 2014.

Hamm said he doesn't have anyone in mind to fill his shoes.

"Whoever my successor is, I will work hard to make sure it's a smooth transition," he said.

No Democrat has announced a run for the office next year.

North Dakota GOP Executive Director Roz Leighton said several party members have expressed interest in the job, but no one has confirmed a run.

"I think he's served the state in a great capacity," she said of Hamm. "He oversaw some trying times with the passage of the Obamacare mandates" and has been a national leader in cybersecurity.

Forum reporter Patrick Springer contributed to this article.