The California agency investigates Kaiser’s mental health care during the strike

As Kaiser therapists approach their fourth week of indefinite strike, an interesting twist has developed in the battle against California’s largest HMO. State regulators launched an investigation last week to see if Kaiser Permanente is violating state laws by not offering its members timely access to mental health care during an indefinite strike that began on August 15. The Department of Managed Health Care said it received 19 patient complaints August 15-20 about accessing behavioral health appointments at the Kaiser. The National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents striking therapists, also filed an official complaint with the agency, claiming that Kaiser was shirking his legal duty to provide assistance.

Kaiser said in a statement that several hundred mental health workers were continuing to work and support members during the strike. “To date, about 40 percent of our dedicated doctors are caring for members instead of going on strike, with more returning every day,” Kaiser said in a statement last week. “In addition, our psychiatrists, clinical managers and other Kaiser Permanente licensed physicians have stepped in to meet people in need of care.”

The union disputed Kaiser’s claims that an adequate workforce remains in place to meet members’ mental health needs. “Kaiser lies to patients about when they will get an appointment; lie to state leaders about complying with California’s mental health access laws; and now they’re lying about how many therapists crossed the line, ”union spokesman Matt Artz wrote in an email to SFGATE.

The Department of Managed Health Care is a regulatory body that governs managed health care plans and has closely followed Kaiser’s mental health services after receiving complaints from patients in May. The department hit Kaiser with a $ 4 million fine in 2013 for providing poor access to behavioral health services, including long waiting times and actively discouraging patients from seeking individual care. Kaiser was fined again in 2017 for failing to provide required patient care data to the state Medicaid program.

“The goal is to act as quickly as possible to ensure the protection of the health rights of members,” Rachel Arrezola, a spokeswoman for the department, wrote last week. “The Department will follow the evidence and take all appropriate action to protect the enrollees.”

More than 2,000 licensed therapists, psychologists, social workers and chemical addiction counselors are participating in the strike in hospitals in Northern California, asking Kaiser to increase staffing and end their patients’ long waits for appointments. The union says patients in Northern California have to wait four to 12 weeks between appointments with Kaiser doctors.

Kaiser said in a statement that the union was intent on calling a strike even though it was close to reaching a bargaining agreement. He also said that the union is primarily asking that health workers spend less time with patients.

At this point, there is no sign of Kaiser and the staff returning to the negotiating table. Union workers will be picketing along with their families and community members on Labor Day, which marks the fourth week of strike and the longest strike by mental health workers in US history.

“Kaiser quit bargaining just before the strike, when we rejected his contractual ultimatum which called for more money for doctors, but nothing for patients,” said Sal Rosselli, president of the union. “We are ready to return to the negotiating table when Kaiser is ready to talk about improving access to mental health care and giving therapists enough time to perform their patient care duties so Kaiser can retain his. therapists and obey state laws on access to mental health. “

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.