The following is a recent interview from In the Loop, an online community where people who are engaged in helping individuals enroll in health insurance can interact with others doing similar work. In the Loop caught up with SJBPH employee Kevin O’Connor, Health Insurance Literacy Program Lead.
June’s Looper of the Month is Kevin O’Connor. As the lead for the Health Insurance Literacy Program at San Juan Basin Public Health, Kevin’s team provides free enrollment assistance and health insurance education to residents of three counties in southwest Colorado.
Read our Q&A below to find out how Kevin went from working in a gold mine to BEING a goldmine of health insurance resources and information, how his personal life influenced his decision to educate others, and what inspires him about In the Loop.
What made you want to become an enrollment assister and what’s your favorite part about this job?
Some years ago, before the ACA, my wife experienced some expensive health problems. We had an individual policy for her, but dealing with that experience opened my eyes to the shortcomings of private health insurance at that time. I couldn’t believe how hard it was for the average person to understand health insurance and make good coverage choices. When the opportunity came up to help people with that process, I knew it was what I needed to do.
What’s unique about helping consumers in your state or county or region?
Colorado has its own state marketplace, which means our processes and procedures are different from the Federal Marketplace. Fortunately, we have a wonderful group of people who run our Assistance Site Network. Being on a first name basis with the people who run the program has been enormously helpful in doing my work, and I never feel like I’m dealing with a faceless bureaucracy. Working in a small town means I can work cooperatively with people from other agencies on outreach projects, and we can share information and best practices on enrollment, too.
When not at work, what kind of hobbies or activities do you enjoy?
I am fortunate to live in a very physically active community. My wife says my hobby is “burning calories.” My off time usually involves running, bicycling, skiing and golf. Sometimes several of those in the same day!
What was your very first job ever?
When I first came to Colorado after finishing college I worked in a gold mine for several years. It was an experience that taught me a lot about the value of hard work. It also exposed me to a lot of people who were very different from me, which taught me to understand, appreciate, value and enjoy the cultural differences in our society.
What do you value most about In the Loop?
It seems like every time I log on to see what’s going on with other Loopers, I am amazed at the infinite combination of circumstances our clients can find themselves in. To me, that is not a problem, but an endless supply of fascinating puzzles we get to have fun solving! I am also in awe of the number of great answers that are posted to every question. Loopers are an amazing group of people, and I respect each and every one of them.