California's Fair Political Practices Commission is looking into whether Kaiser Permante broke the law when it hired a former government regulator who spent years investigating the healthcare company, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Marcy Gallagher, former California Department of Managed Health Care supervising attorney, left the department last year to work for the Kaiser unit that responds to state regulators, handling cases she previously investigated for the state.
The inquiry into her move began when the National Union of Healthcare Workers filed a complaint that claims her hiring violates state law, which prevents officials from working in the private sector on cases they handled for the government, the Times reported.
While union officials say Kaiser "basically bought off a watchdog," the company states it did nothing wrong and is cooperating in the investigation. In fact, it's not out of practice for companies to hire state officials away from their posts, said Beth Capell, a consultant with the Sacramento-based consumer advocacy group Health Access, according to the article.
California has various laws that set restrictions on switching sides on specific issues and time gaps for public officials who leave for the private sector. However, since 1980, the state has fined only 12 former officials for any related violations, the Times reports.
Gallagher worked on a review that found a kink in Kaiser's insurance coverage, an issue she later addressed with a Kaiser team after she came to work for them, an incident which the union claims is switching sides on an issue.
She also worked on an investigation with the government that revealed Kaiser wrongly denied members appropriate access to mental health, resulting in a $4 million fine. Kaiser is appealing the fine that claims it failed to ensure its quality assurance systems track measure and monitor a providers accessibility, failed to monitor that providers' appointments were offered within regulatory timeframes, neglected to take action to improve care when decifiencies were indentified, and didn't provide accurate and understandable mental health education materials to its members, FierceHealthcare previously reported.
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