KAISER PERMANENTE: Announces New, ‘Neutral’ Arbitration Process
Replacing a 25-year-old, "much-maligned" arbitration system, Kaiser Permanente has hired a "neutral" manager -- a prominent civil rights attorney -- to create a new system to resolve disputes over denied benefits and medical malpractice. The Los Angeles Times reports that Los Angeles lawyer Sharon Lybeck Hartmann "will assemble a panel of 200 arbitrators across the state to handle claims against Kaiser." She said, "We are here to create a neutral arbitration system with the widest pool of qualified arbitrators. Nobody has ever administered an arbitration system like this, where it does not itself supply the arbitrators." The Times reports that "[p]atients' lawyers, consumer advocates and even the [state Supreme Court] have said that Kaiser's private system of binding arbitration was biased against its patients" (Maharaj, 11/11). Patients rights advocates were not impressed with Kaiser's efforts. Consumers For Quality Care Director Jamie Court said, "Kaiser may put a pretty face on its private justice system, but until the HMO gives consumers the choice to go before a jury, Kaiser will not have endorsed genuine reforms where HMOs are accountable before civil society and its institutions" (CQA release, 11/11). In related news, Kaiser announced that it has settled a suit brought by the family of Wilfredo Engalla, whose controversial arbitration put pressure on Kaiser to change its process (Times, 11/11). Click here to read more about arbitration of HMO disputes.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.