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Saturday, May 6th 2006

Kaiser's Kidney Transplant Program

The dangerous of HMOs are illustrated here. This topic has been touched on numerous times by other bloggers, so I’m late getting to it. Healthcare Renewal has a lengthy review.

Here’s the Los Angeles Time’s article on Kaiser’s struggles with its in-house transplant program.

Kaiser would no longer pay for transplants at outside hospitals, even established programs with thousands of successes. Instead, adult patients would be transferred to a new transplant center run by Kaiser itself, the first ever opened by the nation’s largest HMO.

Within months after Kaiser’s kidney program in San Francisco started up, its waiting list ranked among the longest in the country. No other center had ever put together such a list so fast.

The patients didn’t know it, but their odds of getting a kidney had plummeted.

Kaiser’s massive rollout in Northern California endangered patients, forcing them into a fledgling program unprepared to handle the caseload, according to a Times investigation based on statistical analyses, confidential documents and dozens of interviews.

Hundreds of patients were stuck in transplant limbo for months because Kaiser failed to properly handle paperwork. Meanwhile, doctors attempting to build a record of success shied away from riskier organs and patients, slowing the rate of transplants performed.

In 2005, the program’s first full year, Kaiser performed only 56 transplants, while twice that many people on the waiting list died, according to a Times analysis of national transplant statistics.