Kaiser Permanente’s newly opened medical center in Oakland. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)
This is the second of two parts about mental health services at Northern California Kaiser.
In January 2013 a woman named “Nina” had a terrible falling out with her father. Soon after, she found out he had incurable cancer and was going to die. In the ensuing weeks, she tried to patch things up, but with the pressures inherent in the last months of a dying man, was unable to attain any form of closure. Some six months after their fight, he was gone.
“People are suffering, and I fear some of my patients will commit suicide for lack of ongoing treatment.”
“Nina,” who did not want us to use her real name for reasons of privacy, had been prone to depression. Zoloft had helped, but the now irreparable family rift left her severely depressed, with occasional thoughts of suicide. “I was in a state of constant emotional pain and confusion,” she says. “It was affecting all aspects of my life.”
She went for an intake appointment at the psychiatric department at Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland Medical Center, with the expectation she’d be able to see a therapist for individual appointments during this severe emotional crisis. She requested those sessions, but the intake therapist told her Kaiser only offered group therapy.
“I said I’m not comfortable talking about my situation with a bunch of strangers,” Nina says. “She very kindly tried to make me aware of the value of group therapy. But I knew in my heart it wasn’t where I wanted to be.” Continue reading
This is Part 1 of a series on issues surrounding Kaiser Permanente’s mental health services.
Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane is frustrated with Kaiser Permanente.
“Kaiser better change the way they do business when it comes to mental health services.” — Shirlee Zane, Sonoma Co. Supervisor
“I can tell you I have heard a lot of stories within the last few days about these types of incidents over and over again,” she says, “of people who were so wronged by their treatment, by either being referred out of the system or by saying, ‘We don’t have the appointments.’”
She’s referring to allegations of long delays for mental health services at Kaiser Permanente, accusations the health plan has been dealing with for several years. Now, Zane is trying to leverage a very personal tragedy — the suicide of her husband — into pressing Kaiser on reforming its mental health practices. Continue reading
As a journalist I’ve covered the Affordable Care Act on and off since it was a gleam in President Obama’s eye. The melodrama of the fierce legislative fight; the subsequent relentless attacks against it; the Supreme Court case; and the catastrophic rollout of healthcare.gov — good times for the news media, though not necessarily the American public.
My first unwelcome surprise came when I input all my information, and the system told me I wouldn’t get a subsidy despite the fact that I knew I was eligible.
But of course, the difference between covering something as a journalist and experiencing it as a citizen is substantial. Last year, in part for health reasons, I gave up my full-time job with KQED News. No more long hours: check. No more crazy deadlines: check. No more health insurance: check … my blood pressure. Because our COBRA costs were going to be astronomical, like 40-percent-of-income astronomical. And my health history rendered me uninsurable on the individual market. At least, on the old insurance market.
All of this made me one of the many poster-children for Obamacare, under which insurance companies, starting Jan. 1, would be required to insure my middle-aged ass, and the government was going to help pay for it to boot. Whether this is a victory for common sense and decency, the end of democracy as we know it, or simply a bad idea, I couldn’t say — and still can’t. I only know that the only rational financial decision, personally, was to try getting an exchange plan through Covered California. Continue reading
No one knows just how many Californians have not yet received their insurance invoice. Insurers say they have added staff to deal with large volume of new enrollees. (Getty Images)
The deadline to pay your premium for a health insurance plan bought through Covered California, the state’s Obamacare marketplace, has been extended to Jan 15. While insurance went into effect Jan. 1 for those who enrolled, you must pay the first month’s premium by Jan. 15 or you you will not be covered.
“If there was a good faith effort by an enrollee to start an application by Dec 23, everyone is honoring that,”- Covered California spokesperson Anne Gonzalez
As that date fast approaches, some enrollees who are well aware of the deadline and are ready, willing, and able to pay have been experiencing a problem: they can’t because their insurance company hasn’t sent them an invoice yet.
Until this week, this was my situation. I waited well over a month between the time I enrolled in a plan through Covered California and the insurance company I selected — Kaiser — sent me an invoice. I kept checking with Kaiser, and they kept telling me they had yet to receive the information from Covered California. And Covered California kept telling me to keep checking with Kaiser. Continue reading