Thursday, July 9, 2015

Are Kaiser Permanente's execs headed to Sing Sing? San Quentin?

Last week, several of Kaiser Permanente’s patients and the "Courage Campaign," a grassroots organization in California, held a press conference where they slammed Kaiser for systematically withholding critical mental health services from patients.

During the past two years, state investigators have fined Kaiser millions of dollars for committing "serious" and "systemic" violations of state law by withholding care from thousands of mental health patients, falsifying patients' appointment records, and violating mental health parity laws. (Los Angeles Times, "California Again Slams Kaiser for Delays in Mental Health Treatment," February 24, 2015)

Kaiser's violations are also highlighted in class-action lawsuits that link the violations to multiple suicides.

Last year, Kaiser famously signed a secret agreement with its largest union, SEIU-UHW, which bars the union and its members from reporting patient-care violations to state regulators, according to a complaint NUHW filed with the California Attorney General.

What could possibly be causing Kaiser’s execs to turn their backs on patients with mental illness, who are one of our society's most vulnerable populations?

Profits, of course.

In addition… a reader has sent along a photo that offers interesting clues about the elitist corporate culture that permeates Kaiser's top echelon of fatcat execs.
Part of Kaiser's 17.8-acre administrative office park in Pleasanton, Calif.
The photo comes from Kaiser's administrative offices in Pleasanton, Calif., a 17.8-acre suburban campus that the HMO purchased from computer giant Oracle Corp. in 2008 for upwards of $100 million. It's a sterile, glass-enclosed, tree-lined, corporate theme park that would make most people's stomach turn.

Just a few minutes away, Kaiser's CEO Bernard Tyson owns a multi-million-dollar, 6,121-square foot house with a swimming pool out back.

So… what's the clue about Kaiser's elitist corporate culture?

Apparently, Kaiser's execs at the Pleasanton corporate park decided they could score a few laughs at the expense of America's skyrocketing incarcerated population, 40% of whom are people with mental illness.

The US’s prison crisis is not typically considered a laughing matter. 

The US has the largest incarcerated population of any country in the world (one in 99 adults are living behind bars in the US). African-Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites.

But for Kaiser's country club execs, this is apparently a laughing matter.

At their corporate office-park utopia in aptly named Pleasanton, Kaiser decided to name the conference rooms after America's most notorious prisons: Sing Sing, San Quentin, Angola, Attica, Leavenworth, Cook County Jail, Alcatraz, etc. 

Check out the picture from Kaiser's corporate offices at 5810 Owens Drive in Pleasanton.
A list of Kaiser's conference rooms at 5810 Owens Drive, Pleasanton

Apparently, Kaiser's execs are enjoying endless laughs as its overpaid managers -- dressed in three-piece suits and armed with lattes, gold watches, and iPhones -- parade through corporate conference rooms named after the prisons housing millions of the US's most marginalized residents.

"Can you meet at 2:00pm to discuss next quarter’s profit targets?"

"Sure, where are we meeting?"

"How about Sing Sing? Or maybe you'd prefer San Quentin? In that case, ya better give the wife a heads-up cuz I hear people usually do 25 to life in San Quentin. Ha, ha, ha.”

There’s nothing quite like an arrogant HMO that decides to thumb its nose at millions of largely poor, black, brown, and mentally ill people caged inside our prisons.

Here's a humble suggestion. 

Kaiser’s execs should pull their iPhones out of their asses and read this newly published article in The Atlantic: "America's Largest Mental Hospital Is a Jail." It begins: "At Cook County Jail, an estimated one in three inmates has some form of mental illness. At least 400,000 inmates currently behind bars in the United States suffer from some type of mental illness…"

Next, Kaiser might wanna change the name of its conference rooms to something like, uh, "Mental Health Parity" or "Cultural Competence." 

Finally, Kaiser should spend some of its $15.5 billion in profits to actually fix its notorious problems that deny thousands of Kaiser's own members from getting adequate mental health care.