Health care giant Kaiser Permanente has agreed to pay a $4 million fine over allegations it denied some patients timely access to mental health services.
The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa reports that Oakland-based Kaiser has dropped its appeal of the fine issued last year by the state Department of Managed Health Care.
The department said Kaiser patients faced long waitlists to see a mental health professional. It also accused Kaiser of having educational materials that discouraged patients from seeking medically necessary care.
"By paying the fine, Kaiser finally acknowledged its violations, but it has yet to take meaningful steps to correct the underlying problems in its mental health care system," said Sal Rosselli, president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents the 2,500 mental health professionals who care for Kaiser patients.
"It's a vindication of what Kaiser mental mental health clinicians have been saying for years," said Clement Papazian, a social worker at Kaiser's Oakland Medical Center.
Kaiser, which disagreed with many of the state's findings, said in a statement it wanted to focus all of its energy on its continuing efforts to improve mental health care service.