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Kaiser Permanente doctor sues Kaiser for denying care to thousands

A former Kaiser Permanente doctor is suing the health care provider. He claims the non-profit organization denies adequate care to thousands of chronically-ill patients to save money.

At issue is Kaiser Permanente’s Special Needs population. It’s a group of about 60,000 people, mainly in California. Some are chronically ill children and adults, most are seniors. All are covered by Medicaid/Medi-Cal.

“And Kaiser has what are called Special Needs Plans in which these members belong," said Dr. Richard Della Penna. Della Penna worked for Kaiser Permanente for 23 years and coordinated national programs for the health plan’s special-needs population.

The doctor says there were never any written internal directives, but he says there was a general consensus to provide minimal care to about 95 percent of the patient pool to save money. Della Penna says when he spoke out on behalf of his patients he was forced to an early retirement.

“As a result of my advocacy for geriatrics, elder care, for the special needs population, for the people with advanced illness, I found myself being more and more marginalized.”

Della Penna’s lawsuit against Kaiser lists several claims, including retaliation against a physician for patient advocacy and violation of public policy.

In a written statement, a Kaiser Permanent spokesman says the organization hasn’t yet seen the lawsuit. “It’s important to remember that allegations are just that. They are not necessarily true."