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Kaiser Permanente staff are on strike. Right here’s what makes it such a singular well being care firm

By Samantha Delouya | CNN

Los Angeles  — On Wednesday, 1000’s of unionized well being care workers walked off the job after failed contract negotiations with their employer, Kaiser Permanente, an organization whose enterprise mannequin is distinctive, in comparison with most well being care suppliers in the US.

Right here’s what you must know in regards to the medical system.

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Kaiser is funded by membership charges

Not like conventional well being care suppliers in the US, Kaiser operates each as an insurance coverage plan and a supplier of all care lined by that plan. Sufferers (or their employers) pay a membership charge to Kaiser Permanente to entry its companies. That implies that though 1000’s of staff are on strike at Kaiser, the corporate will proceed to gather cash from membership charges.

“They’ve members, they’ve subscribers and they also will proceed to get their month-to-month funds,” stated John August, former government director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions.

Based in 1945 in Oakland, California, Kaiser Permanente is without doubt one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit well being suppliers. It operates 39 hospitals and 622 medical places of work throughout California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia and Washington. It additionally employs almost 213,000 workers and has a membership of 12.7 million, in line with Kaiser’s web site.

Members are primarily locked in to utilizing Kaiser well being staff

Kaiser’s membership dues set it aside from America’s conventional “fee-for-service” well being care mannequin, wherein a health care provider or well being care supplier is paid a charge for every service they carry out.

Kaiser was designed to be a one-stop store for all sufferers’ wants. Members can entry a wide selection of companies by way of the system, together with main care, lab testing, telemedicine, psychological well being care, pharmacy companies and even beauty remedies. Nevertheless, apart from emergencies and particular circumstances, any care outdoors Kaiser Permanente’s system will not be lined.

“For those who be part of Kaiser Permanente, you’re saying, ‘I’m going to see Kaiser medical doctors, and I’m going to go to Kaiser hospitals,’” stated Gerald Kominski, a senior fellow on the UCLA Middle for Well being Coverage Analysis.

Proponents of Kaiser Permanente argue that its fastened membership charges provide a monetary incentive to give attention to preventative care and hold sufferers wholesome reasonably than performing a excessive quantity of pricey medical procedures.

“One of many causes that Kaiser has grown over the previous few a long time is as a result of they provide high quality care at an reasonably priced value,” Kominski stated.

It’s a nonprofit entity

Though Kaiser Permanente operates as a nonprofit entity, it generates billions of {dollars} in revenue. In the course of the first six months of the yr, Kaiser Permanente reported a complete web earnings of $3.3 billion.

Nonprofits are usually required to reinvest surplus property again into the enterprise, although they’re allowed to order cash for future surprising bills.

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The coalition of unions that’s hanging in opposition to Kaiser Permanente has accused the corporate of hoarding earnings regardless of its nonprofit standing. The coalition argues that Kaiser ought to reinvest extra money in frontline care, together with greater pay for workers and a method to fight continual brief staffing that has left staff feeling overworked and burnt out.

“Kaiser executives should deal with the Kaiser short-staffing disaster that frontline well being care staff see getting worse at nice prices to sufferers — sufferers who’ve seen their premiums going up together with their wait occasions. The Kaiser mannequin has definitely confirmed efficient at producing billions in reserves for the corporate,” stated Renee Saldana, a spokesperson for SEIU-UHW, the most important union representing Kaiser staff on strike. “It’s time for Kaiser executives to speculate these assets in addressing the determined wants of Kaiser sufferers and frontline well being care staff. Meaning Kaiser executives offering aid on growing premiums to customers, and aid to their battered frontline well being care workforce within the type of improved staffing and retention.”

Nevertheless, Kaiser took a revenue hit in the course of the pandemic, reporting a web lack of greater than $2 billion within the first six months of 2022. Kaiser cited rising prices and pandemic-related disruptions for the multibillion-dollar losses.

Staff are feeling Covid-19 burnout

Kominski stated he believes the well being care business and its staff have but to rebound from the pandemic.

“The truth that there’s burnout and issues with retention and recruiting due to the work setting is, for my part, most likely one of many longer-term penalties of the pandemic,” he stated.

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August stated in his expertise at Kaiser Permanente, workers have been “very proud” of their work.

“As a result of you could have such a loyal workforce who feels that they need to take this step, it’s a really vital second,” he stated of the strike.

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