Kaiser Says $4 Million State Penalty Is Unfair
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Aired 6/26/13 on KPBS News.
State regulators have fined Kaiser for not providing better access to its mental health services, but Kaiser officials maintain they've already made improvements.
SAN DIEGO Kaiser Permanente is calling a $4 million dollar fine imposed by state regulators "unwarranted and excessive." The state penalized Kaiser for limiting access to mental health services.
The Department of Managed Health Care faulted Kaiser in March for a number of deficiencies, including making mental health patients wait too long between appointments. This week, the agency imposed the fine because the insurer didn't promptly correct these problems.
In a written statement, Kaiser spokesman John Nelson maintained the company has hired new providers and improved wait times.
Jim Clifford, a long-time therapist at the Kaiser clinic in Otay Mesa, said there's now too much concentration on initial appointments.
"Then that makes our greater problem even worse, which is we don't have any appointments to follow up patients with," Clifford explained. "It's often a month or even two months before we can get a follow-up appointment with patients."
State regulators say they'll continue to monitor Kaiser to ensure it's complying with the law.