Los Angeles Times Criticizes Kaiser Permanente for Bonuses to Limit Conversations with Patients
A Kaiser Permanente practice that offered bonuses to telephone service representatives who limited doctor's appointments and reduced patient telephone time "should anger and frighten" HMO members, according to a Los Angeles Times editorial (Los Angeles Times, 5/20). Internal Kaiser documents from January 2000 to December 2001 found that telephone service representatives at call centers in Sacramento, San Jose and Vallejo could earn a bonus of up to 10% of their salary, with a maximum of $625 per quarter, when they met three of four criteria: handling calls in certain amount of time, scheduling a limited number of doctor's appointments, transferring a limited number of calls to advice nurses and spending at least 75% of the workday answering calls (California Healthline, 5/17). Although telephone "triage" at HMOs "is a frustrating fact of life," the practice should not "be wielded as a ... cost-cutting tool," the Times states. The editorial praises the Department of Managed Health Care for investigating whether the practice at Kaiser prompted telephone service representatives to "in essence" evaluate patients' medical conditions -- a "process rightly restricted to licensed medical personnel" (Los Angeles Times, 5/20).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.