Clinicians document Kaiser’s noncompliance with state law, prepare for strike

NewsJuly 29, 2022

Earlier this month, NUHW-represented mental health clinicians at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California sounded the alarm over Kaiser’s noncompliance with California mental health access and parity laws SB 221 and SB 855.

After years of advocacy and legislative and regulatory actions to compel Kaiser to address its broken mental health system, about 2,000 mental health caregivers in Northern California are preparing for an open-ended strike to force the HMO into action.

As reported in a recent story in Capital & Main, NUHW members filed a complaint with the California Department of Managed Healthcare (DMHC), the state agency that protects consumers’ health care rights and ensures a stable health care delivery system, outlining Kaiser’s attempts to evade compliance and accountability with SB 221, which took effect July 1.

Since SB 221 went into effect, mental health workers at Kaiser in Northern California report that their ability to prescribe, document, and deliver timely follow-up behavioral healthcare has been severely limited by Kaiser’s recent changes to charting templates and internal administrative rules.

Clinicians in Northern California are now being forced to use pre-designed charting templates and treatment plans that illegally constrain them from prescribing, documenting, and delivering timely and appropriate treatment for enrollees.

This, on the heels of a recent non-routine survey conducted by the DMHC to assess if Kaiser’s 9.4 million California members are receiving timely access to mental health care services.

“This non-routine survey is based on complaints received from enrollees, providers, and other stakeholders concerning the plan’s behavioral health operations,” said Amanda Levy, the department’s deputy director of health policy and stakeholder relations in a Sacramento Bee interview.

“The complaint outlines, in clear detail, how Kaiser is modifying its internal charting systems to limit a mental health clinicians’ ability to accurately document their care recommendations for patients,” said Sal Rosselli, president of the National Union of Healthcare workers. “Kaiser made $8.1 billion in profits in 2021 — there is no reason it should not be hiring more mental health workers to ensure the quality and consistency of care its members deserve and pay for.”