Kaiser Permanente has decided to pay rather than fight a $4 million fine the state of California levied against the health giant for failure to provide its patients with timely mental health appointments.
"Rather than continue to focus on the past, we are going to continue with our patient-centered improvement efforts, and forgo the expense and distraction of litigation," Kaiser spokesman John Nelson said in a written statement issued Tuesday.
The statement goes on to say that the state's largest health care provider continues "to disagree with the basis and size of the penalty as excessive and disproportionate" to last year's findings by the Department of Managed Health Care.
The Department imposed the fine against the health care giant last June after a 2012 survey by state health officials found 40 percent of Kaiser’s non-urgent mental health appointment wait times exceeded 14 days - four days longer than the Department allows.
At the time the fine was issued last summer, Kaiser Permanente said it had already corrected nearly all of the problems cited in the review.
The Department of Managed Health Care is now conducting a follow-up survey "to ensure the plan has corrected these deficiencies and is complying with the law," Department Director Shelly Rouillard said in a written statement.
In Tuesday's four-page statement about the fine, Kaiser also announced a new, statewide effort to further improve its mental health care services that it says includes:
- More convenience in appointment times, office hours and locations for mental health care services;
- Better engagement with patients that will include their input in the creation of treatment plans;
- Allowing patients the ability to choose their own therapist.