News of the Month — March 2022

NewsMarch 28, 2022

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A Washington Post story quotes the head of Mental Health America of California and San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott criticizing Kaiser Permanente for overstating its mental health external provider network.

NUHW’s 2020 survey noting that 87 percent of therapists say they could not offer weekly appointments to mental health patients who needed them is included in a Benefit News story about the difficulties of finding accessible and timely care, even as mental health issues are on the rise. The story notes that nearly half of Americans are struggling with anxiety, and 39% reported symptoms of depression at the end of 2021.

Liberation News highlights NUHW Kaiser Permanente members’ January 17 protest against the healthcare giant for denying them the day off in honor of Martin Luther King. Jr., noting the march to the Kaiser’s offices in Oakland. The story also notes Kaiser has been slow to address structural racism within the company and MLK Day was set to become a paid holiday this year, but Kaiser backtracked, delaying it until 2023.

A closed door deal by Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration would give Kaiser Permanente a no-bid statewide contract to cherry-pick healthier Medi-Cal enrollees, leaving other care providers to cover the state’s sickest and most costly patients, raising questions about the preferential treatment of a generous supporter of the governor, reports Los Angeles Times.  The story quotes Anthony Wright, executive director of the advocacy group Health Access California, saying that “The arrangement between [the state] and Kaiser should include requirements to maintain or improve Kaiser’s record on quality and equity as they take on more of this vulnerable population, especially given their spotty record on behavioral health.”

A story about the March 1 COVID booster deadline for state healthcare workers in Benito Link quotes NUHW President Sal Rosselli saying that booster shots help save lives and that now is time for Hazel Hawkins to do its job by addressing chronic understaffing that has put patients at risk and left caregivers struggling to do their jobs during the most recent surge.

The Sacramento Bee is covering a $1.2 billion class action lawsuit alleging Sutter Health illegally used its market power to discourage patients from using lower-cost insurance and hospitals and negotiate insurance contracts that resulted in higher premiums for some 3 million employers and individuals. In 2021, Sutter Health also settled a U.S. Dept. of Justice’s False Claims Act case where it was alleged that it submitted unsupported diagnosis codes for patient encounters resulting in inflated payments to the Medicare Advantage Plan.

Becker’s Hospital Review reports that driven by investment gains, Kaiser Permanente recorded a record net income of $8.1 billion in 2021, an increase of $1.7 billion (27.2 percent) from 2020. The health plan membership also grew by 185,000 members, topping 12.5 million members nationwide.

A story in San Francisco Public Press notes that NUHW is one of the labor groups supporting the formation of tenant associations in San Francisco that could collectively bargain with landlords on aesthetics, construction schedules and even rent levels building-wide.

Eighty percent of healthcare workers say they are somewhat or very satisfied with their current job, but 52 percent also report feeling “burned out” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and 23 percent say they are likely to leave the field in the near future, according to a USA Today/Ipsos Poll/Ipsos Poll, reports Becker Hospital Review.

Antelope Valley Press reports that Sen. Scott Wiener has introduced SB 964, which would offer $37,000 in stipends to students pursuing master’s degrees in social work, who will go on to work in the behavioral health field at a public agency. The bill would also create a state fund to increase pay and provide bonuses for licensed professionals already working in the field.