Kaiser Permanente Hit With Lawsuits Over Physician Call Center
Kaiser Permanente's use of a specialty call center for physicians in emergency cases is drawing criticism and sparking lawsuits over concerns that in some cases the center can hinder care, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Kaiser literature indicates that it established the center 20 years ago in hopes of improving care provided to Kaiser members in other hospitals' emergency departments and controlling costs.
Myles Riner, past president of the California chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, said the center can boost care by giving ED physicians access to Kaiser members' medical histories and expedite their transfer to a Kaiser facility.Â However, he said it also can lead to delays in non-Kaiser EDs.
At least one lawsuit alleges that using the call center delayed treatment for a Kaiser member, leading to the woman's death.
In addition, hospital chain Prime Health Care Services has filed five lawsuits against Kaiser, arguing that the HMO did not pay for members' treatment at EDs owned by Prime after physicians declined to transfer patients to Kaiser facilities.
The doctors said patients could not be transferred safely (Peyton Dalhberg, Sacramento Bee, 2/15).
Kaiser Permanente Financial Loss
Meanwhile, Kaiser officials announced Friday that Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals lost $794 million in 2008, largely because of a $996 million fourth-quarter loss that they attributed to investment declines, the San Francisco Business Times reports (Rauber, San Francisco Business Times, 2/13).Kaiser reported a non-operating loss for 2008 of $2.3 billion, compared with non-operating income of $498 million in 2007 (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/14). 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.