Kaiser Permanente fined $4 million for poor mental health care

State regulators have slapped a $4 million fine on Kaiser Permanente for failing to provide adequate access to mental health services.

A routine medical survey conducted in March revealed that Kaiser isn't currently meeting state health plan standards that allow patients timely access to treatment. Concerns about the adequacy of Kaiser's provider network were also suggested, according to the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC).

"The department’s action (is) a result of both the seriousness of the deficiencies and the failure of Kaiser to promptly correct them,” Brent Barnhart, department director, said in a news release.

Poor quality control and education

Problems found in Kaiser's mental health care network included a lack of quality assurance systems that can accurately track and monitor the availability of providers, problems with regularity of appointments and an absence of "accurate and understandable" mental health educational materials.

The trouble that patients are having navigating the Kaiser mental health system, the statement concluded, results in individuals simply not getting the treatment they need. Websites and educational materials were found to be so frequently misleading that a patient could be too easily dissuaded from receiving "medically necessary" care.

Even more concerning was that some materials - while not in violation of state law - did not convey the details of coverage in a language that was understandable to the average patient.

Kaiser has been working with the DMHC for over a year, states Kaiser spokesperson John Nelson, who also claims that the fines are "unwarranted and excessive."

To ensure that Kaiser continues to correct the problems, the DMCH plans to monitor the situation and conduct a follow-up survey in October.

Questions can be directed to the agency's help center website at HealthHelp.ca.gov.

Source: Sacramento Business Journal

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