California Report Slams Kaiser Permanente for Long Delays for Mental Health Care

from the American Psychiatric Association headlines
February 25, 2015

Leading The News
California Report Slams Kaiser Permanente For Long Delays For Mental Health Care Treatment.

The Los Angeles Times (2/25, Pfeifer, Terhune) reports that in a report released Feb. 24, the California Department of Managed Health Care “slammed HMO giant Kaiser Permanente for causing mental health patients, including some who were severely depressed or suicidal, to endure long delays for treatment.” The report charges that “some Kaiser patients continue to wait weeks to see therapists and psychiatrists.” In addition, “the agency…criticized Kaiser for giving patients misleading information about the extent of their mental health coverage.”

The San Francisco Chronicle (2/25, Colliver) reports that “the department conducted the survey to follow up on a $4 million fine it levied against Kaiser in 2013 for inadequate access to its health care services, issues that were raised primarily by its mental health workers.” Even though “Kaiser contested the fine,” the Oakland, CA-based health organization “in September agreed to pay it.”

The Bay Area News Group (CA) (2/25, Parr) reports that the state agency did find, however, that “Kaiser has made significant improvements in accurately showing when appointments are requested and made.” In addition, Kaiser “has a new way to track and report appointment wait times.” Nevertheless, the “report found that in Northern California, 22 percent of Kaiser patients have to wait too long to be seen.” Under current state law, patients with mental health issues should be seen “within 48 hours in urgent cases, within 15 days for a specialist such as a psychiatrist and within 10 business days for nonurgent appointments.”

U-T San Diego (2/25, Sisson) reports that the state’s “report comes amid a protracted labor dispute between Kaiser and the union that represents its 2,600 mental health workers, who mounted a weeklong strike at 10 Kaiser hospitals statewide in January.” For the past three years, “workers have said the giant HMO does not provide timely mental health appointments to its members, an allegation that the state Department of Managed Health Care supported in 2013.” The Sacramento (CA) Business Journal (2/25, Robertson, Subscription Publication) also covers the story.