By Aaron Court
The National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) is a California-based union of health care professionals. During August and September of 2011, the NUHW surveyed 305 mental health providers from 57 Kaiser Centers throughout California. In November 2011, it completed the research study.
The study’s key findings highlight shortcomings of Kaiser’s mental health service. First, the study found that Kaiser often violated state laws requiring HMOs to provide access to mental health services in a timely manner. The second key finding states that, according to reports by clinicians, Kaiser falsifies patient records pertaining to scheduling in order to make it appear that it is following state laws regarding timely patient access to services. Third, that Kaiser often funnels its mental health patients into group therapy, even when clinicians believe that individual therapy would be more appropriate and beneficial for the client. The fourth key finding states that, as reported by clinicians, Kaiser is performing initial intake evaluations in an amount of time that is below the recommended clinical standard and these initial intake evaluations are coded incorrectly which may result in fraudulent billing to Medicare and other service contractors. The last key finding is that the current mental health care deficiencies at Kaiser are part of an ongoing pattern of substandard care.
The NASW-CA supports the NUHW, its report, and agrees that state and federal authorities should investigate. In fact, the Department of Health Care in California has already completed an investigation and fined Kaiser $4 million dollars.
Aaron Court, MSW, is an intern with NASW-CA and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.