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2 workers are fired by Kaiser for deceit

06/10/03

Roger Mezger
Plain Dealer Reporter

Kaiser Permanente of Ohio has fired two workers for allegedly changing documents so that the HMO would score higher in an evaluation.

"We discovered it, we promptly investigated it, we reported it, and we're fixing it," Patricia Kennedy-Scott, regional president for Ohio, said yesterday. 

She said the deception was discovered last month as the National Committee for Quality Assurance was conducting a routine accreditation review of the health plan. The committee accredits plans that meet certain standards, making them more attractive to employers and consumers.

One standard calls for health insurers to use plain language rather than medical jargon when communicating care decisions with customers. Kennedy-Scott said two nonclinical employees altered copies of about 10 letters that had already been sent to customers in order to make them easier to read. The simpler language would have scored more points in the evaluation.

"What these individuals did was wrong, absolutely wrong," Kennedy-Scott said.

Another Kaiser employee blew the whistle on the scheme, she said. The company immediately investigated and notified the accrediting agency of the problem.

The agency is now investigating and will decide in about six weeks whether Kaiser will be reaccredited, spokesman Barry Scholl said yesterday.

In the meantime, Kaiser's accreditation has been suspended. But the suspension has no impact on the medical care that Kaiser customers receive, Kennedy-Scott said.

Kaiser Permanente serves more than 150,000 customers in Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Stark, Summit and Wayne counties through its network.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

rmezger@plaind.com, 216-999-4446 

2003 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.




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