Kaiser and Streisand

This poster started showing up on the subway I take to work:

opening poster

I disregarded it without giving it much thought, based on apathy and cynicism:

  • Kaiser Permenente is huge, and is in the quagmire that is the health care industry. Of course there's going to be bad stories about it
  • My wife and I are with Kaiser, and we've had good experiences, so the problems aren't universal
  • It's probably an attack ad funded either by a rival medical foundation, or related to some class-action lawsuit trying to smear the company

It wasn't until I saw related posters start to crop up that I paid attention.

response 1 response 2

These response posters had one of the desired effects: I now thought of the first poster as motivated by a labour dispute.

As a result, I was going to write something about how ineffective it was to try to win hearts and minds when the people you are reaching do not make the decisions on which medical company to use. As such, I started looking into this.

Streisand strikes again

When I started doing some basic research, I found that the claims against Kaiser, regardless of the motivation behind them, seemed true. All the complains center on Kaiser's mental health care (not their traditional or physical care). This also means my experience (which is anecdotal anyways) is now even more irrelevant.

So before, I saw an attack ad and ignored it. Now, thanks to Kaiser fighting back and triggering the Streisand effect, I've discovered:

Kaiser is not a "non-profit organization"

Desite what like they want you to believe, this giant pulls in huge profits. By their own admission, only the insurance and physical asset ownership (equipment and buildings) is non-profit. The employees are all working for a for-profit organization, which sells its services to the non-profit running the hospital. This means the "non-profit" can be charged whatever it takes to make sure there's no profits left. Once the money is in the for-profit part, it can act like any corporation: Keep wages and expenses as low as possible, to maximize profits (resulting in a $1.1 billion profit in the first quarter of 2014)

Kaiser's mental health care is illegally insufficient

California's Department of Managed Health Care has issued reports saying that the extensive delays violate California law, resulting in a $4 million fine. They are also facing three different class-action lawsuits related to denial of mental health care, as well as one about retribution against whistleblowers.

Least worse is no excuse

So Kaiser's mental health is crap. This doesn't mean it's much worse than other providers around here. For all I know, they could be the "least worse" provider. It does mean, however, that the attack ads (sourced from the Courage Campaign Institute which seems to do other good work) are valid. Just because Kaiser's giant failings might be matched by other players doesn't mean we can't call them out.

Thanks Kaiser for trying to cover this up, causing me to actually check into it.