DMHC: Mental Health Services Deficiencies Remain at Kaiser
Kaiser Permanente has failed to address several of its mental health services shortcomings, including access to timely care and information, according to a California Department of Managed Health Care report released Tuesday, KPCC's "KPCC News" reports.
The report was a follow-up to a 2013 review of Kaiser's mental health services (Aguilera, "KPCC News," KPCC, 2/24).
In March 2013, DMHC issued a report finding that Oakland-based Kaiser mismanaged its mental health care services. The report was released as part of a routine mental and physical health services survey conducted every three years.
The report found that Kaiser had:
- Made patients wait excessively long periods between appointments; and
- Offered patients inaccurate information that could have dissuaded them from seeking long-term individual therapy.
DMHC levied a $4 million fine against Kaiser for failure to:
- Reduce wait times;
- Fix inaccurate information; and
- Properly record tracking data for mental health appointments (California Healthline, 9/10/14).
Details of Report
According to the DMHC report released this week, Kaiser has improved issues related to tracking services and training staff.
However, the report noted that Kaiser had failed to fix issues related to:
- Providing timely appointments for behavioral and mental health services; and
- Sharing information with patients ("KPCC News," KPCC, 2/24).
According to the report, 22% of medical records reviewed among Kaiser's Northern California facilities failed to meet state guidelines for timely access to care, compared with 9% in Southern California.
DMHC Director Shelley Rouillard said, "Kaiser has made some significant steps ... but still has a significant access problem that does seem more dramatic in the north than the south," adding, "A 22% deficiency is serious" (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 2/24).
The report also found that Kaiser staff had misled patients about what benefits were covered and, in some cases, recommended patients seek care from somewhere else.
According to the Los Angeles Times, DMHC's investigation into Kaiser is ongoing, and it has not yet determined whether it will impose any further penalties (Pfeifer/Terhune, Los Angeles Times, 2/24).
In a statement, Kaiser acknowledged its deficiencies and the need to improve in certain areas. However, officials said the report did not accurately reflect its current staffing levels and wait times ("KPCC News," KPCC, 2/24).
For example, Kaiser said it increased its mental health worker staff by 25% from 2011 to 2014 and contracted with ValueOptions to make additional providers available (Los Angeles Times, 2/24).
Kaiser said it also is:
- Shifting mental health workers to where they are most needed; and
- Improving the clarity and accuracy of information in its files ("KPCC News," KPCC, 2/24).