News Release

Date Posted

Covered California Announces Appointments of Directors of Communications and Director of Individual and Small-Business Sales Team

Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee has named Amy Palmer as the director of Covered California’s Office of Communications and Public Relations and Kirk Whelan as the director of the Individual and Small Business Sales Division.

Palmer will oversee the agency’s media relations, public relations and all other external communications. Whelan will oversee Covered California’s sales strategy in both the individual and small-business markets, including meeting sales goals and designing future health insurance products. He will be responsible for consumer retention and renewal of health insurance plans, which will include a field sales program involving Covered California Certified Insurance Agents, Navigators and agency staff.

“Amy’s skills as a health care communicator will be key in guiding our media and public relations efforts,” said Lee. “Amy’s experience will help ensure we are effectively communicating with all Californians about the quality, affordable coverage available through Covered California.”

Palmer’s career in health communications includes serving as associate secretary of external affairs for the California Health and Human Services Agency. In that role, Palmer oversaw media outreach and was responsible for communicating a wide range of health and social service proposals, including health care reform advanced in 2007.

Prior to joining the Health and Human Services Agency, Palmer led communications for the California Department of Social Services, where she developed an award-winning statewide media campaign designed to explain new work rules in the state’s main public assistance program.

Palmer earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Whelan comes to Covered California from Kaiser Permanente, where he worked in a variety of positions since 1996. Most recently, he was the sales manager for Kaiser’s valley territory in Northern California, responsible for large- and small-business membership sales and was the leader of Kaiser Permanente’s California small-business strategy team. “Kirk’s years of experience in the California group employee benefit market will enhance our ability to effectively meet sales and renewal goals and will be an integral part of our future success,” said Lee. “His expertise working with insurance agents also will serve as a critical asset for Covered California.”

During his tenure at Kaiser Permanente, Whelan’s responsibilities included building partnerships with insurance agents to enhance sales. He led agent training and update programs for more than 10 years and was responsible for leading Kaiser Permanente’s statewide agent education program in 2013 to prepare agents and employers for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Whelan is also a past president of the Sacramento Association of Health Underwriters.

Whelan graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, with a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing and sales, agricultural business management.

The annual salary for Palmer’s position is $160,000, and the annual salary for Whelan’s new position is $170,000. Both Palmer and Whelan will report to Yolanda Richardson, chief deputy executive director for strategy, marketing and product development.

About Covered California
Covered California is the state’s marketplace for the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Covered California, in partnership with the California Department of Health Care Services, was charged with creating a new health insurance marketplace in which individuals and small businesses can get access to affordable health insurance plans. Covered California helps individuals determine whether they are eligible for premium assistance that is available on a sliding-scale basis to reduce insurance costs or whether they are eligible for low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal. Consumers can then compare health insurance plans and choose the plan that works best for their health needs and budget. Small businesses can purchase competitively priced health insurance plans and offer their employees the ability to choose from an array of plans and may qualify for federal tax credits.

Covered California is an independent part of the state government whose job is to make the new market work for California’s consumers. It is overseen by a five-member board appointed by the governor and the Legislature. For more information about Covered California, please visit