The Petaluma Argus-Courier will launch a week-long series of stories on Friday to highlight a number of residents and their experiences navigating a local mental health care system they consider problematic.
Before Kaiser Permanente mental health workers took to the picket line nearly two months ago, local patients were already having complaints about the Oakland-based provider’s services.
The state’s Department of Managed Health Care opened an investigation into Kaiser amid a series of complaints from patients who said they faced a lack of access to and adequate mental health care from Kaiser, both before and during the strike.
The state’s investigation is assessing whether Kaiser followed practices to provide the legal amount of access to behavioral health services to all patients in need during the strike, which saw staff go to the picket line. strike from August 16 to protest against working conditions.
Kaiser has offices in Petaluma and Santa Rosa, as well as in the western United States
“The (Department of Managed Health Care) is concerned about the risk of immediate harm to enrollees due to the very serious nature of the allegations that the plan does not provide timely appointments for enrollees required by the law,” a department spokesperson said.
On September 25, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 855 to expand the coverage obligations of health and disability insurers to include the prevention and treatment of mental health conditions. The law states that providers must provide “clinically appropriate” services “in terms of type, frequency, extent, location and duration” even if such treatment is not “for the economic benefit of the plan of health care services and subscribers or for the convenience of the patient, attending physician or other health care provider.
The state is currently evaluating whether or not Kaiser violated SB 855.
But Kaiser said his workers’ union, the National Union of Health Care Workers, encouraged therapists not to provide patient care while negotiations persisted, contributing to the strain on the system.
“Our patients cannot afford a proposal that dramatically reduces the time available to care for them and their mental health needs,” Kaiser spokesperson Adriann McCall said in a statement. “We remain committed to all of our efforts to be able to meet our members’ mental health care needs as well as meet all state access requirements, using all available resources.”
But the National Union of Health Care Workers denied Kaiser’s claims.
“There was never a request that (therapists associated with Kaiser) stop seeing Kaiser patients during the strike,” union representative Matt Artz said in an email. “They were invited to join the Kaiser clinicians on the picket line, but clearly the invitation was simply to come in support of the striking clinicians – not to stop seeing their patients with Kaiser insurance.”
Kaiser said it continues to provide mental health care through third-party services during the strike and advises members to call 800-390-3503 if they are having difficulty getting appointments while on strike. Mental Health.
Kaiser also said in the emailed statement that through patient surveys, the healthcare provider found that approximately 94% of patients said they were satisfied with their experience with Kaiser.
The union, however, said patient complaints to state regulators are “skyrocketing.”
Amelia Parreira is an editor for the Argus-Courier. She can be reached at [email protected] or 707-521-5208.