HEALTH PLANS/HOSPITALS: Kaiser gets beaten up in LA Times

There’s a series going on in the LA Times suggesting that, after it created its own kidney transplant program, either through inefficiency, incompetence or worse, Kaiser Permanente caused a delay in the transplants of several kidney patients. This morning’s report, called Kaiser Denied Transplants of Ideally Matched Kidneys is pretty damning, suggesting that Kaiser deliberately refused to cover the transplants of some perfectly matched organs for donors at UCSF. The unstated reason is of course that they’d have to pay for them at UCSF whereas it would be money they’d keep within their own system if they could perform the transplant at their own new center.

As late as Wednesday afternoon, Kaiser officials adamantly denied that they had ever instructed UC San Francisco to turn away such organs. But after being confronted with evidence to the contrary by The Times, the officials called back to say that they could not stand by that position. One of Kaiser’s own kidney specialists had confirmed that he directed UC San Francisco to turn down at least one of the near-perfect-match kidneys, they acknowledged.

Now as far as I can tell we don’t really know whether those patients quickly got their transplants within the new Kaiser center, or what their outcomes were. And we don’t really know why Kaiser pulled its business from UCSF in the first place—Kaiser in S.Cal is still contracting out transplants to academic medical centers.

I tend to believe that Kaiser is in general on the side of the angels, so I’m waiting to see more about this before I cast any judgments. But whatever they saved in the first few months of this program pales in comparison to what these kinds of stories will cost them.


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