Kaiser Bonuses

It's a telelphone triage. Kaiser patients get a clerk on the phone first, then after a series of questions, "may" be forwarded on to a nurse. But Kaiser admits it has paid these clerks bonuses when they spent fewer minutes on each call and passed "fewer" patients on for medical advice or appointments. Senator Liz Figueroa sponsored a state law that bans "doctor" disincentives rewards for providing "less" care. "We abandoned it because it wasn't working," said Figueroa. Kaiser insists it's goal all along wasn't to save money, but improve efficiency moving calls faster, with fewer patients on hold or hanging up. This isn't the first criticism of Kaiser's screening processes. State regulators fined Kaiser a record one million dollars in the case of Margaret Utterback of Hayward. She called Kaiser five times pleading to see her doctor, and by the time she was allowed to come in, her undiagnosed aneurysm killed her. "Unfortunatley Mrs. Utterback died because she didn't receive timely health care," said Figueroa. After that case the lawmaker made it illegal for anyone without medical training to give medical advice. She worries Kaiser's phone clerks are acting as "de facto" nurses.