KAISER PERMANENTE: Disability Rights Advocates Sue HMO
A group called Disability Rights Advocates filed suit yesterday against Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., accusing the managed care giant of providing inferior services to people with disabilities in California, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. The suit, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act, alleges that Kaiser hospitals fail to offer accessible facilities, examination tables, scales and other medical devices for people in wheelchairs. Kaiser Permanente spokesperson Tom Debley declined to comment on the allegations, but claimed that Kaiser institutions, which serve eight million members in 11 states and the District of Columbia, have complied with state and federal disability guidelines. Debley also said that Kaiser was willing to cooperate with Disability Rights Advocates to resolve any dispute. "If there is a problem a member has experienced, we want to know about it and investigate what has happened," he said (7/26). Kaiser Permanente serves 130,000 Californians with some sort of disability. Laurence Paradis, director of Disability Rights Advocates in Oakland, said that the group has singled out Kaiser because it is the largest HMO in the state and the suit might help "other hospitals and health plans get the message." Paradis said, "We're not saying it's any worse at Kaiser, but it's certainly not any better" (St. John, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/27). Sid Wolensky, director of litigation for Disability Rights Advocates, said, "It seems particularly ironic that a decade after the most sweeping act ever enacted for people with disabilities, they are still treated as second-class citizens with respect to health care" (Glionna, Los Angeles Times, 7/27).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.