HEALTH PLANS: Kaiser/Gadfly update, Fri, with early afternoon UPDATE

So today brings a couple of new wrinkles to the KP story.  First, following the initial meeting with the Judge after KP looked for an injunction asking the Gadfly take down the site which allegedly holds the 140 patients’ data, according to her version of events, the Gadfly voluntarily acceded to a request from the Judge to take the site down while the case was being decided.
Nonetheless, the Department of Managed Healthcare, which has basically been acting as a lap-dog to for-profit health plans since  Arnie became Governor, decided to intervene by issuing a press release this evening  giving the Gadfly 15 days to take the site down. Given that a judge will be ruling on this within seven days you’d think that the DMHC would have better things to do with its time, like ignoring the potential damage to the state by the local Blue’s licensee becoming part of a major monopoly and having its executives becoming gazillionaires in the process–luckily insurance Commissioner Garamendi was at least partially awake to that last year, even if he too was easily bought off in the end.

Still while the grandstanding by the DMHC is not particularly impressive,  in the press release they also seem to be stating that they are also investigating to see whether KP was guilty of posting this information before the Gadfly did. If they really are dong that, then this whole incident still has the possibility of hurting KP legally and reputation-wise, and it at the least gives the Gadlfy another venue in which to make her feelings about Kaiser known.  Although it’s probably at this stage pointless for me to say this again, KP would have been much better off if it had calmly and quietly dealt with the Gadfly’s complaints about her firing.

So what happened there?  Well there’s no sure way to know.  The Gadfly has put the long explanation of her version on her web-site. It appears that she got caught in a political infight between two managers, and then in attempting to get out of that problem, made a misstep which somehow signaled to their manager that KP would be better off getting rid of her, despite her work performance, which apparently seems to have been good.  But KP is known for being pretty political internally so I’m inclined to believe that there were things going on that were beyond the Gadlfy’s control. I’m also personally a believer in a greater level of trust and honesty being shown between employer and employee, and having seen a copy of the final termination letter from HR at KP, it’s clear that they at the least acknowledge that her version of events didn’t  square with that of her managers’. Now she was within her probationary period, and California is an
at-will employment state which means that anyone can be fired for any
reason at any time, but you’d hope two things.

One, that KP would have the decency to get to the bottom of this, including having a fair internal review process. Two, realizing that this firing put the Gadfly’s life into a tailspin and made her a KP enemy for life, you’d hope that KP would look to find a sensible way to settle the problem rather than ignoring her efforts and seeing her get all the more desperate and dangerous to their public reputation (not to mention having her dump the cost of her health problems on the goodwill of non-Kaiser providers and the taxpayer).

There’s even a bizarre twist that, according to the Gadly in order to get Kaiser’s attention, she tried to post some other Kaiser documents — not apparently the ones in dispute in this round of the story — on eBay. Although apparently nothing ever came of it,

Quite where all this goes I don’t know, but I suspect that the downside for the Gadfly is modest, as she’s clearly at the bottom and at the end of her rope and so has nothing to lose. The outcome for KP is probably modest too, but there’s a wildcard that this whole affair may become a bigger distraction than they’d like, and even that some genuine complaints are raised over their handling of patient data which might even result in penalties.

Somehow you have to feel that this could have been headed off at the pass if the Gadfly had been given a different assignment within Kaiser, or even a half-decent exit interview.

UPDATE: Over on her Corporate Ethics site the Gadfly details her problems with the DMHC which she claims failed to interview a doctor involved in her complaint about care she received when she was a Kaiser member and closed the complaint, and also that the DMHC seems to believe that she put the original site up.  She has continually stressed that she found the data online several months after she left Kaiser and never had access to it when she was there. The original site was taken down several days after this story was first featured in THCB in September 2004, but the Gadfly’s mirror stayed up. I cannot believe that the Gadfly was sneaky enough to steal the documents, stick the original site up, and then mirror it and take it down.  Much more likely, KP found out about the original error by their staff or consultants via the THCB posting and took it down themselves. (I have several Kaiser contacts and I know some of them read THCB). Obviously mistakes happen, and given the complexity of finding the patient data in those diagrams (I looked quite hard and I never saw any!) and the relatively few people who paid this any attention till this week, it seems like relatively little harm was done.  But KP should be trying to blame the original breach on the Gadfly if it’s not her fault. 

And as I’ve said for the nth time, there had to be better ways of dealing with this….


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