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Pat Kelly

'Play fast, but don't hurry'


It was encouraging to see Pat Kelly had so much energy, enthusiasm and focus when he sat down—and he doesn't sit down too often—with Boise Weekly on a recent late afternoon. For one, as executive director of Your Health Idaho, Kelly has one of the most challenging jobs in the Gem State. Secondly, he begins his day before sunrise--way before sunrise (more on that in a moment).

When Your Health Idaho launched its second incarnation of online shopping for health insurance on Nov. 15, it's a fair bet that more than a few Your Health executives held their breath—2013 was not its best moment, as Idaho relied entirely on the federal exchange platform that was defined by scores of starts and stops. Additionally, Your Health Idaho was embroiled in controversy when it awarded a $375,000 contract to a company owned by one of its own board members to oversee the exchange's technology vendors. The episode ended with the deal being canceled, the board member resigning and the exchange adopting new oversight practices.

That was then. Amy Dowd resigned as Your Health Idaho executive director this past July to take a job as CEO of New Mexico's health insurance exchange, and Kelly, who previously served as CFO, took the reins of the exchange. More importantly, the exchange re-launched Nov. 15 with its own online platform and served approximately 13,000 unique visitors in its first 48-hour period.

Give us a thumbnail sketch of your professional experience.

I worked 15 years in D.C., doing budgeting and planning for MCI Communications, which was taken over by Verizon. Our family moved back to Boise [Kelly spent his formative years in Boise] to get out of the D.C. rat race. My wife Lisa and I started a business, The Little Gym, out in Eagle, which has really grown to the point that we have fantastic people who run that for us. Once we had reached that stage, I looked for other things to do. I was the CFO of Transform Solar, a joint venture with Micron Technology, and in July 2013, I came on board as CFO of Your Health Idaho.

I'm hoping that you're going to tell us things are much better this year at Your Health Idaho.

A lot better. Absolutely. Completely different. The technology is ours, developed with Idahoans in mind. The online marketplace experience is very easy.

Can you appreciate that we were told the same thing about last year's marketplace? Do you recall that we were told that the experience would be like Expedia?

I remember telling us that.

So tell us a bit about the new experience.

Our online marketplace is a product customized for Idaho. Our technology vendor, Getinsured, are amazingly smart, intelligent people. We call them any time of the day and we're down in their Silicon Valley offices once a week or so.

To be clear, they're the brains behind the technology.

That's right. We have an IT director here who helps us with our on-site needs and oversees our vendors. But we don't have programmers here.

How many employees do you have?

Ten full-time. That number will grow seasonally. We may have 15 or 20, but we'll never have 50.

Please clarify what type of entity Your Health Idaho is.

We exist because the law says we have to. That's the easiest way to explain it. We're most like a public entity but not a state agency. We're a government entity, but we're not state or federal employees

Just from a human resources perspective, that's confusing.

We're obviously in a very odd place. The public thinks we're a state agency, so we've adopted policies, for example, about public meetings and records. We think it's important to be transparent. That's why we've leaned more toward being a public entity in our practices.

Is it fair to say that some of Your Health Idaho's controversies in 2013 were needed to move you toward greater transparency?

I think the transparency was always there.

But you had to learn some pretty hard lessons.

I'll quote a great basketball coach, John Wooden: "Play fast, but don't hurry." People have heard me say this more than once. We're going at a pace that is very fast but we should never hurry. We want to be very prudent with our decisions, making sure that we're reaching out to our stakeholders and working within the proper framework. When you hurry, you tend to forget those things.

When do you start your day?

Three-thirty in the morning.

Hold it. What?

I'm checking email and I'm off to the gym by 4; I head home, get ready for work and I'm here between 6:30 and 7.

Is all of this because of a personal preference or the demands of the job?

I'm a morning person. I'm planning out my day before my meetings, which usually start no later than 8:30 and they're going straight through to 5:30 p.m.

So, we're talking about 12- to 14-hour days.

When I can, I'm an avid skier and mountain biker. Our kids are playing all kinds of sports, so we're on a lot of sidelines. It's go, go and go some more.

Throughout our conversation, I've been noticing something sitting on your credenza: Mickey Mouse ears.

Our attorneys are Hawley Troxell and...

I'm already loving how this story is starting.

Our general counsel from Hawley Troxell went to Disneyland and brought us all back Mickey Mouse ears. And the best part is that they're monogrammed on the back: I.H.I.E. [Idaho health insurance exchange].

The punchline practically writes itself.

We try not to take ourselves too seriously. :