State Investigates Kaiser Permanente Marketing Practices
The Department of Managed Health Care is investigating whether Kaiser Permanente in Southern California misled about 18,000 Coachella Valley members into believing they could see non-Kaiser physicians, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Kaiser on July 1 will open medical offices in Palm Desert, Palm Springs and Indio. Kaiser does not have other clinics in the region, and patients were allowed to see non-Kaiser doctors who contracted with the HMO prior to the opening of the new locations.
DMHC is investigating allegations that deceptive marketing practices by Kaiser misled members into believing they could continue seeing their current primary care physicians after the clinics open.
The physicians group that handles the contracts for non-Kaiser doctors said Kaiser as recently as April displayed lists at several companies' open-enrollment events that included names of doctors the HMO knew would not be available after June 30. Kaiser's physician directories continued to list 125 doctors associated with Desert Medical Group and the Oasis Independent Physicians Association Medical Group even though their contracts will expire at the end of the month, the Times reports.
Benjamin Chu, president of the Southern California region of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals, said the company has been upfront and has been running a marketing campaign since the fall to alert members to the changes.
A Kaiser spokesperson said the HMO has asked members to choose a new Kaiser doctor, but only 1,000 of the 18,000 members in the area have done so (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 6/1).