Members, therapists criticize Kaiser Permanente's mental health coverage: 6 things to know

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Kaiser Permanente is facing backlash for how its insurance plans cover mental healthcare, receiving complaints from members, therapists and the American Psychological Association, according to NBC 7 San Diego

Here are six things to know:

1. A Kaiser Permanente therapist said the company's approach to mental healthcare is to discourage or deny care instead of bolstering staffing to address shortages, according to the Sept. 20 NBC 7 San Diego report. 

2. Kaiser has expanded its California therapist base by 35 percent over the past five years, the company told the news station.

3. However, members still report delays in coverage and care, with one member telling NBC 7 San Diego that despite being diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, she was told she did not qualify for therapy unless she entered a mental health crisis. 

4. Delays in care have led organizations like the American Psychological Association to speak out against Kaiser Permanente's approach. In 2020, Jared Skillings, PhD, APA chief of professional practice, said such delays in care were "egregious."

5. The California Department of Managed Health Care fined Kaiser Permanente in 2013, and the following settlement in 2017 required the insurer to revamp oversight of behavioral healthcare. Details of changes were not released. 

6. "Kaiser Permanente believes mental health and well-being are essential to total health and we're committed to helping our members stay mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy," the payer told NBC 7 San Diego in a statement. "This commitment includes ensuring members seeking mental health and addiction care can access appointments in a timely, clinically appropriate manner."

Kaiser Permanente told Becker's in a statement that it has and will continue to expand the accessibility of mental healthcare, especially amid growing demand throughout the pandemic. 

"Kaiser Permanente believes mental health and well-being are essential to total health and we’re committed to helping our members stay mentally, physically and emotionally healthy," the statement said. "This commitment includes ensuring members seeking mental health and addiction care can access appointments in a timely, clinically appropriate manner."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a response from Kaiser Permanente. 

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