KAISER PERMANENTE: DEVELOPS NEW ARBITRATION SYSTEM
Kaiser Permanente, the nation's largest nonprofit HMO, isThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
"touting a new and improved mandatory arbitration system in the
wake of a court ruling blasting its process as unfair to
patients," American Medical News reports. The California Supreme
Court "ruled 6-1 that there was substantial evidence that Kaiser"
willfully slowed down the proceedings in the arbitration case of
a cancer patient (see AHL 7/1). According to Jamie Court,
director of Consumers for Quality Care, the court's decision has
"cleared the way for HMOs that deal unfairly with patients in the
arbitration process to have to face the public scrutiny of open
A spokesperson for Kaiser said the HMO began "making changes
two years ago to improve the process." Kaiser has recently
established a "fast-track program that allows members to demand
that arbitrators be appointed within 30 days." A new California
law that Kaiser supported also allows the court to "intervene and
appoint arbitrators itself if the process begins to drag on." In
addition, Kaiser officials are now "more closely monitoring the
arbitration process, tightly supervising the outside counsel who
handle the cases." Kaiser is also reportedly "reconsidering
their long-standing policy of administering the program
ANY GOOD WAY?
American Arbitration Association Senior Vice President
George Friedman said there is an "'inherent conflict of interest'
in a self-administered system." He said, "The party holding the
money is not going to be anxious to move along quickly."
However, Fred Hiestand, general counsel for the Association for
California Tort Reform, said that arbitration must remain free of
"all the trappings of civil litigation" in order for it to
"remain a viable alternative to costly court cases" (Prager, 7/28