Kaiser Permanente has agreed to pay a $2-million fine after state HMO regulators found that its Northern California kidney transplant program imperiled hundreds of patients, in some cases delaying critical surgeries or losing track of patients altogether.
The penalty is the largest ever levied by the California Department of Managed Health Care. The previous record, $1 million, was collected from Kaiser in 2002 after lapses in care caused the death of a Northern California woman.
The fine is part of a consent decree that stipulates a series of corrective actions Kaiser must take. It forces the HMO to contribute about $3 million - in addition to the fine - for outreach programs to encourage organ donation. It also requires Kaiser to change some of its practices with monitoring from state regulators.
Closure Of The San Francisco Kidney Transplant Program
Kaiser announced the closure of its San Francisco kidney transplant program in May after reports described how patients were endangered when Kaiser forced them in 2004 to transfer to its fledgling program from established transplant centers at outside hospitals.
In Kaiser's program, twice as many patients died on the waiting list last year as received kidneys. The statewide pattern was the reverse: Twice as many patients received kidneys as died.
Hundreds of patients were stuck in limbo for months - with little hope of receiving new kidneys - because Kaiser failed to properly handle paperwork transferring them to its new program. And 25 Kaiser patients who had been treated at UC San Francisco were denied the chance to receive nearly perfectly matched kidneys because Kaiser directed the university to reject the organs during the transition between programs.
All the while, the patients have had to undergo prolonged dialysis.
Now, as Kaiser closes its program, more than 2,000 patients on its waiting list are being moved to UC San Francisco and UC Davis - in many cases the same hospitals that had been treating them before Kaiser started its program.
Kaiser's program has been roundly criticized. In a stinging report made public in June, federal regulators concluded that practically every aspect of the Kaiser kidney program was flawed and threatened to cut off Medicare funding for treating all end-stage renal disease at the HMO's San Francisco hospital. But the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services accepted Kaiser's plan for fixing its problems, even though the program is closing.
Contact Our Lawyers Today For More Information
Our attorneys At Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger, our attorneys are currently representing multiple health plan members in claims arising out of Kaiser's transplant program fiasco. If you need help, or are entitled to compensation because of your experience in Kaisers transplant program, call us at 415-906-3764 or email us using the contact form.