Saturday, November 24, 2007

Beware of the King of Non-Health Care: Kaiser Permanently

After watching Michael Moore’s film “SiCKO” recently, and reading a ton of stuff about Kaiser Permanente, I am quite frankly shocked and appalled at what I have learned. It’s not like I’m surprised. I have some first-hand experience with this HMO and it’s not pleasant.

A few years ago, my left knee started hurting. It was a dull pain at first, but then it got progressively worse, to the point where I was limping. I went to Kaiser, where I had my health insurance at the time, and after pleading with them, they agreed to take some x-rays. The doctor was really nice and advised me that if I wanted to get things like x-rays at Kaiser, that I would “have to fight for them.” She told me that she would help me navigate through the system so that I could get the care I might need. I was stupid enough to believe her because I was a rookie at the time and unaware of the ways of Kaiser.

After begrudgingly taking the x-rays, I got a call about a week later from Kaiser. My doctor told me that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the knee and that I just needed to lose weight. She said that she could refer me to a nutritionist and gave me the whole speech about how being overweight is bad for my health, etc. What she didn’t mention was that going to Kaiser for my health care was just – maybe even more – harmful to my health.

My knee continued to hurt. I lost approximately 45 pounds over a three-month period in hopes of alleviating the pressure and pain on the knee, but it just kept hurting. I went to Kaiser a couple more times and told them about the increasing pain, and they refused to take any more x-rays. When I inquired about possibly getting an MRI, you would have thought I was threatening their children. They told me emphatically and repeatedly that an MRI was out of the question and that I should just stay away from the pizza and pasta and go to the gym more if I wanted my knee to feel better.

Well, about six months later I changed jobs and my new employer has health insurance through another health car provider named United. United Health Care, although very adept at denying care just like Kaiser, seems to be a much better alternative. When I told them about my knee, they didn’t start crying about it being a pre-existing condition and promptly sent me to an orthopedist here in San Francisco. These people really know what they’re doing. In fact, my doctor used to be the team physician for the San Francisco 49ers football team.

My new doctors looked at my knee and took x-rays immediately. I didn’t even have to ask. When they looked at the x-rays that same day, they could plainly see that there was no cartilage left in the knee. It’s what they call “bone-on-bone.” It’s so thrashed that they can’t even fix it as is – the knee will eventually have to be replaced.

When they showed me the x-ray I was shocked. Could Kaiser have somehow misinterpreted the x-ray? Could it have been an honest mistake, I asked my doctor? He laughed – a 4-year-old child could see that my knee was wasted, he said. A pre-med student with one good eye would be able to tell that my knee was basically shot.

Since then, I have heard so many horror stories about Kaiser that I can’t count them all.
The place is not too bad when it comes to maintenance, but when you need something fixed – something that is going to cost them money – Kaiser will do everything in their power to make sure you don’t get it.

Their motto is “Thrive,” which I think is do blatantly dishonest that it makes me ill just thinking about it. Their tagline should be: “Thrive. And then Just Die. Really Fast.” (Because if you get a lingering illness or go into a coma, we will Deny, Deny, Deny)

You buy health insurance or get it through your company and you think you’re safe. But, you’re not. Because there are HMO’s like Kaiser our there who specialize in not providing you with the health care you might need. They give their doctors bonuses for denying care – and that’s a proven, documented fact. When they do have to give people the proper care, they call it a “loss.” That’s how they look at it.

And then, if they give you bad or inadequate care at Kaiser, you’d better not try to sue them. They will throw attorneys at you until you give up. That’s what Kaiser counts on – that most people will eventually give up. And the majority do.

The six children of Adam Wesley Arnold have not given up. When Kaiser euthanized their 70-year old father on September 11, 2000, they started a web site called Here you can read all the “Kaiser horror stories” that people who have been blocked from receiving quality health care (or any health care, for that matter) from Kaiser Permanente.

If you’re a member of Kaiser, or any other HMO that specializes in denying care, all I can say is pray that you don’t get really sick. Because you won’t thrive. You’ll just die.

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