A historic moment for mental health parity

January 13th, 2020

Kaiser is facing newfound pressure not only to achieve mental health parity, but to settle contracts that treat all of us with full dignity and respect.

Our nearly 4,000 NUHW Kaiser mental health clinicians refused to return to bargaining until Kaiser agreed to settle contracts for all units, including Optical. When Kaiser agreed to enter settlement talks for all NUHW members last month, clinicians proceeded to strike because Kaiser wouldn’t bargain over restoring pensions and improving health benefits.

The solidarity demonstrated by NUHW members, most of whom still have pensions, made a strong impression on top elected officials. They believe that Kaiser should treat all its workers fairly as well as fix its broken mental health system.

On Friday, less than a month after hundreds of NUHW members protested outside the Sacramento headquarters of the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC), Gov. Gavin Newsom declared that he is going to make the DMHC “do their damn job and … go aggressively on parity.”

See the governor deliver his remarks or read them below:

We’re going after parity. Mark my words, DMHC is getting in the business of real enforcement. Not tacit enforcement.

I want to prepare folks for some high-profile fines. They will do their job. I don’t need legislation to do that… They just need to do their damn job, and they need to go aggressively on parity.

I’ve been talking about this for too many years. And I am saying this looking into one of these damn cameras because there are folks out there not doing the right thing.  And they will be fined. And they will be held accountable. And I will deeply highlight their lack of accountability in this space.

We are going aggressively on the parity issue as a mandate and a mission for my team over there, and I just want to applaud them for recognizing the imperative.

This is the strongest statement any California governor has made on enforcing parity rules, and Kaiser executives are feeling the heat.

Gov. Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President pro tempore Toni Atkins know that achieving real parity starts with Kaiser— and that we can’t make meaningful progress until Kaiser settles fair contracts.

Our solidarity is paying off. Kaiser is on the defensive, and we’re in a prime position to win the best possible contracts while improving patient care. Let’s keep standing together and see this through.