California regulators slapped Kaiser Permanente with a $3 million fine for failure to provide adequate oversight of quality-assurance programs intended to address physician peer review or patient complaints about medical care at its 29 medical centers statewide, which serve 6 million members.
Inspectors from the Department of Managed Health Care examined more than 200 randomly selected files involving specific complaints, quality-of-care issues and other concerns at nine hospitals in the state. More than one-third of the files were deficient in at least one of seven categories, according to the 54-page report.
This is the second time in a year the department has levied penalties on Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser. Last August, the agency fined Kaiser $2 million for poor management at its nascent kidney-transplant program in San Francisco, which caused delays in care and put patients at risk. Kaiser closed the program and agreed to donate $3 million to promote organ donation.
The kidney-transplant debacle opened up the managed-care giant to further oversight by the department. The department, which took nearly a year to complete the report, said it will consider reducing the new fine by $1 million should Kaiser take adequate actions to remedy the problems. The agency will ask for further corrective action by Oct. 1, conduct unannounced site visits starting in November and do a follow-up survey in late 2008.
Bernard Tyson, executive vice president of Kaiser Health Plans and Hospitals, called the report thorough, thoughtful and extremely constructive and said corrective action is already under way. -- by Rebecca Vesely
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