California agency investigating Kaiser mental health care amid strike

As the Kaiser healers approach the fourth week of the Unspecified Strike, an interesting development has developed in the battle against CaliforniaBiggest HMO. State regulators launched an investigation last week into whether Kaiser Permanente It is violating state laws by not providing its members with timely access to mental health care during an open-ended strike that began on August 15. The Department of Managed Health Care said it received 19 complaints from patients from August 15 to 20 about accessing behavioral health appointments at Kaiser. The National Federation of Health Care Workers, which represents striking therapists, also filed a formal complaint with the agency, alleging that Kaiser had abdicated its legal duty to provide care.

In a statement, Kaiser said several hundred mental health workers continue to work and support members during the strike. “As of today, about 40% of our dedicated doctors are interested in organs rather than on strike, with more coming back each day,” Kaiser said in a statement last week. “In addition, psychiatrists, clinical directors, and other Kaiser Permanente-certified physicians are stepping in to meet with people who need care.”

The union has disputed Kaiser’s claims that an adequate workforce remains in place to meet members’ mental health needs. “Caesar lies to patients about when they will get an appointment; they lie to state leaders about compliance with California mental health access laws; and they are now lying about how many therapists have crossed the picket line,” union spokesperson Matt Artz wrote in an email to SFGATE.

The Managed Health Care Administration is the regulatory body that governs managed health care plans, and it closely monitored Kaiser’s mental health services after receiving complaints from patients in May. The department hit Kaiser with a $4 million fine in 2013 for providing poor access to behavioral health services, including long waiting times and actively discouraging patients from seeking individualized care. The tsar was fined Back in 2017 for not providing required data about patient care to the state’s Medicaid program.

“The goal is to move as quickly as possible to ensure that health care rights for enrollees are protected,” Rachel Arizola, a spokeswoman for the department, wrote in a statement last week. “The ministry will follow up the evidence, and take all appropriate measures to protect those enrolled.”

More than 2,000 licensed therapists, psychologists, social workers and chemical dependence counselors are on strike at hospitals in Northern California, demanding Kaiser increase staffing and end their patients’ long wait times for appointments. The union claims that patients in Northern California face waiting periods of four to 12 weeks between appointments with Kaiser physicians.

The Kaiser claimed in a statement that the union was intent on calling a strike even though it was on the verge of reaching an agreement in negotiation. She also said the union is primarily asking healthcare workers to spend less time with patients.

At this point, there are no signs of the Tsar and the staff returning to the negotiating table. Union workers will be in line for a sit-down joined by their families and community members on Labor Day, marking the fourth week of the strike and the longest-running mental health worker strike in US history.

“Kaiser pulled out of the bargaining just before the strike when we rejected the ultimatum to the contract that had more money for doctors, but nothing for patients,” said Sal Rosselli, union president. “We are ready to return to the negotiating table when Kaiser is ready to talk about improving access to mental health care and giving therapists enough time to perform their duties in patient care, so that Kaiser can retain her therapists and comply with mental health access laws.”

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