Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, an entity of Kaiser Permanente, is working on improving its health services but regulators are not impressed with the improvements.
On Feb. 24 this year, California's Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) issued a press release, which states that Kaiser has improved upon the access for its mental care appointments. However, about 22 percent of all Northern California patients are still not getting timely information and mental care services.
DMHC also revealed that 9 percent of the patients in the Southern Region did not receive appointments within the required timeframe. The DMHC has also found that certain employees at Kaiser did not relay accurate information to people regarding its services.
"Although Kaiser has taken substantial steps to identify and monitor issues related to timely access to behavioural health services, significant and serious concerns remain," says [pdf] Shelley Rouillard, DMHC Director. "Kaiser's actions have not been sufficient to ensure enrollees have consistent timely access to behavioral health services."
California law requires that a mental health care provider to arrange an appointment for a mental health patient within 48 hours for urgent cases. The state law also requires a specialist sees a patient within 10 business days for non-urgent cases.
It is not the first time that Kaiser has been found guilty for not ensuring timely appointments. In 2013, DMHC found Kaiser deficient in a number of areas that included appointment times. The health insurer was also fined $4 million as DMHC found that patients had to wait for weeks before getting an appointment. The fine was the second largest in DMHC's history.
Kaiser has also announced that DMHC's report is not accurate and does not reflect upon existing appointment times and staffing at its centers. Kaiser reveals that since the original DMHC survey of 2012 and the follow-up survey of 2013-2014, it has made significant progress. Kaiser reveals that it has hired more mental health therapists in Southern as well as Northern California and is also recruiting more people.
Kaiser also has a new method of tracking and reporting appointments timely. The mental healthcare provider suggests it has also increased the clinic hours. It has also started taking telephone and video appointments and moves physicians in between its medical centers whenever required. Kaiser had also started to refer several patients to other mental health care providers in 2014.
Kaiser claims that it has also worked on improving the accuracy and clarity of information ensure correct information is relayed to patients.