In September 2014, GoodTherapy.org reported on the California Department of Managed Health Care’s decision to fine Kaiser Permanente $4 million for delaying and denying mental health care to its customers. In January, more than 2,500 mental health workers went on strike to protest inadequate staffing and care for Kaiser’s mental health clients. Now, mental health regulators in California are again criticizing Kaiser for its treatment of people experiencing mental health challenges.
Is Kaiser Neglecting Its Mental Health Patients?
In a report issued earlier this week, California’s Department of Managed Health Care said that Kaiser patients continue to face long wait times. In some cases, the HMO gave people incorrect information about their coverage. The report argues that, while Kaiser has improved in some areas since being fined, it continues to fall short in others.
In a review of 300 patient records, regulators found that southern California patients didn’t get appropriate care within a 10- to 15-business-day time frame in 22% of cases. Regulators cited a number of troubling anecdotes to illustrate the problem. A sexual assault victim diagnosed with posttraumatic stress waited five months for care, with a Kaiser psychiatrist suggesting she pursue care outside of her plan at her own expense. In another case, a child with aggressive behavior waited seven weeks before getting therapy, and a teen with a history of suicidal thoughts had to wait 24 days before being seen.
Kaiser Defends Itself
Kaiser continues to argue that it’s improving, with company leaders claiming that they’re proud of the progress the organization has made. The HMO has hired numerous therapists, increasing its therapist roster by 25% since 2011. Kaiser contracted with ValueOptions, a provider network outside the Kaiser system, to offer care.
For people who continue to experience long waits for services, though, the changes aren’t coming fast enough.
Pfeiffer, S., and Terhune, C. (2015, February 24). California again slams Kaiser for delays in mental health treatment. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-kaiser-mental-health-20150225-story.html
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