C.J. Moore wore a broccoli costume so many times, Kaiser Permanente had to replace it after it wore out.
Moore, 71, has donned the suit since 2004 at running events and other gatherings in the Colorado Springs area as part of her role as the health insurer's director of public affairs in Southern Colorado, a job she held since the California-based nonprofit expanded to Colorado Springs and Pueblo more than 20 years ago. She retired Dec. 15 but said she still might occasionally wear the costume. She plans to work part time as a consultant with Pamela Shockley-Zalabak, former chancellor of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, including work for Kaiser.
"As a former health care reporter, I have always enjoyed the business of health care and I am watching with great interest what is happening now" with the so-far-unsuccessful efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Moore said. "Retiring frees me up to do things I was not able to do with Kaiser, like state my own opinion. When you are associated with a company, you have to be careful about stating your opinion."
Moore was Kaiser's public face, answering questions from the media and still serving on 11 boards ranging from the Colorado Springs Commission on Aging to the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region. She previously served on 20 other boards, including the El Paso County Board of Health, where she cast a controversial vote, as part of the minority, in favor of a needle exchange program. Her second term on the board ended in May, and she was not reappointed by the El Paso County commissioners, so she was not on the board when it rejected a needle exchange a second time Dec. 4.
"My work on that board was very different from all of the others I served on because it was a policymaking board," Moore said. "People misunderstand the purpose of a needle exchange. It is not to prevent addiction, it is to prevent the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C. I would have voted for it again."
But she said the needle exchange vote wasn't the biggest challenge she faced at Kaiser. Moore said Kaiser faced more heat in 2000, when it dropped Penrose-St. Francis Health Services from its network of hospitals in favor of a less-expensive deal with Memorial Hospital, a decision opposed by some of its members, including the Diocese of Colorado Springs.
"We had pregnant women calling us who were concerned that they would have to change doctors," Moore said. Kaiser added Penrose-St. Francis back to its network in 2009.
Moore also was concerned about public reaction to Kaiser opening clinics staffed by its own doctors, a model the health giant uses in Denver and other areas. In Southern Colorado, Kaiser instead signed contracts with more than 1,000 doctors to treat its members and later added its clinics with two in the Springs and one in Pueblo. She said a second Pueblo clinic is expected to open this year, and Kaiser is planning on opening a third location in the Springs in 2019.
"I thought opening our first medical office would hurt us because people are attached to their doctors. It was nice to see that people like our doctors," she said.
Moore applied for the Kaiser job after seeing an advertisement in The Gazette. At the time, she was teaching a class on resume writing and how to get a job, so she kept her students posted as she applied, went through interviews and eventually accepted the position. It is a decision she has never regretted.
"I have worked with some of the finest people you can imagine who have worked so hard to take care of our members," said Moore, who said she never would have recovered from personal tragedies without the help of her co-workers. "I lost two houses (her own and a second nearby home that had belonged to her parents) in the Waldo Canyon fire and told my co-workers that you have gotten me through losing my husband, who died of a heart attack while snowboarding in 2002; the death of my parents and the loss of my home and I never would have made it without their support and love. I have no family here, so they became my family."
Holly Kortum, executive director of Kaiser's Southern Colorado operations, called Moore "a valued member of our Kaiser Permanente Southern Colorado team since we first opened our doors in Colorado Springs in 1997. She has made many important contributions as she helped launch the service area. CJ is adored by colleagues and friends all across Southern Colorado! We wish her all the best as she begins this new journey."
Moore will be replaced by Michele Wolfe, who has been with the insurer in the Springs for eight years.
Moore's fondest memory while at Kaiser - wearing the broccoli costume. Kaiser bought the costume as part of its first advertising campaign - called thrive, now in its 13th year - which emphasized staying healthy through diet and exercise.
"When you put on the costume like that, you are no longer you" and instead become the character, she said. "When I went to a YMCA board meeting just before retiring, they gave me a basket full of - what else - broccoli and fresh vegetables."
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