Kaiser Permanente and Group Health: Acquisition Q & A

am0001259-01-16_v14_page_1Attention Group Health members: Group Health has signed an agreement to be acquired by Kaiser Permanente. Group Health and this district will continue to keep employees informed as more information is available. In the meantime, please visit the Group Health Web link ghc.org/kp for the most current information. Below are some commonly asked questions and answers as outlined when clicking the link above.

Why is Group Health joining Kaiser Permanente?

Increasing competition from large national companies, rising drug costs and technology expenses are some of the reasons it’s becoming harder for a small, regional organization like Group Health to continue providing high-quality care and coverage at an affordable price. Joining Kaiser Permanente — a nationally recognized, nonprofit organization that shares our (Group Health’s) approach to health care — is the best way we can ensure that members continue to get the kind of care and coverage they have come to know and trust.

Is Group Health a part of Kaiser Permanente now?

No. Group Health is not yet part of Kaiser Permanente, though some important milestones have already taken place — such as public forums around the state and the approval of our voting members. The proposed acquisition is currently being reviewed by the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC).

What are the next steps in the acquisition process?

The OIC must approve the acquisition and additional necessary actions must be taken before we can become part of Kaiser Permanente. We don’t know the exact date the OIC will make its decision, but we anticipate it will happen in late 2016 or early 2017.We know you probably have specific questions about what’s ahead. While we may not have all the answers today, we will update you when there is new information to share. You can go to ghc.org/kp for the latest information.

Will Group Health’s name change?

Yes. Group Health Cooperative’s name will change to Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington. Beginning in March, you’ll start to see the Kaiser Permanente name in medical centers, on staff apparel, on our (company) website and other places. Staff will answer the phone as Kaiser Permanente.

Will you be communicating news about the acquisition to members?

Yes. We’re beginning to send communications to members about what they can expect if the acquisition is completed, including reassurance that their plan for 2017 will not change. Please refer to the attached postcard that will land in subscribers’ homes starting on Nov. 22. If the acquisition is completed, Kaiser Permanente is committed to keeping members informed through the transition. Members can expect to receive a welcome from Kaiser Permanente and customer service staff will be ready to answer any questions they may have. In the first half of 2017 members will receive a new Kaiser Permanente ID card and will begin to see changes to signs in facilities and online.

What can I expect when the acquisition is approved?

When a decision has been made by the OIC, we will be notified and provide you the update. If the acquisition is completed, Kaiser Permanente is committed to keeping everyone informed through the transition. You can expect to hear more, including,

  • Information about the process and timing for the transition, what we know will change, and what will remain the same.
  • Advertising and other elements to introduce Kaiser Permanente in the state of Washington.
  • A “Welcome to Kaiser Permanente” letter to members, highlighting a commitment to our members’ care and experience.
  • Name changes throughout our system, including on member ID cards, online, at clinics and even in the way Customer Service representatives answer the phone. This work will begin following all approvals and through 2017.
  • Increased call center staffing to support members calling with questions.
  • Ongoing updates to our website dedicated to the acquisition and transition: ghc.org/kp.

Does Kaiser Permanente plan on making improvements?

Yes. As part of the acquisition agreement, Kaiser Permanente has committed to investing $1 billion in facilities and technology to the current Group Health system over the next 10 years. These ongoing improvements to infrastructure, technology and other areas will support and enhance members’ care experience in the years ahead. Additionally, Kaiser Permanente’s greater resources will help us grow stronger and continue to attract top doctors and staff.

Will plans and benefits change for 2017?

No. When clients choose a Group Health plan during 2016 Open Enrollment, the plan they select will not change in 2017.

What impact will the acquisition have on 2017 premium rates?

None. The proposed acquisition does not affect 2017 premiums, benefits or costs.

Will members still be able to see their Group Health doctors in 2017?

Yes. Members can continue to receive care in the Group Health location they do now. The name on the building will change but the same convenient clinics with doctor offices, lab, pharmacy and X-ray usually under one roof will continue to be there.

What plans will Kaiser Permanente offer in the future?

It’s too early to know exactly what health plans, rates or benefits will be offered beyond 2017. But we do know that Kaiser Permanente understands the value of offering plans that give employees choice in providers and intends to offer choice products in Washington with access to community providers outside of our medical centers. Provider networks for 2018 products would be determined sometime in 2017.

What are some other advantages to joining Kaiser Permanente?

Once the acquisition is complete, our health plans will become part of the larger Kaiser Permanente organization, broadening the appeal of products to employers that have a presence outside of Washington. (Kaiser Permanente operates in California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, and Virginia, and the District of Columbia.) Kaiser Permanente’s larger footprint brings advantages for everyone including employers and members. Additionally, each of Kaiser Permanente’s regions has local operations, where local decisions are made. Each region has its own personality, and there will continue to be local leadership, governance, and teams supporting members’ care and service here in Washington.