Kaiser Mental Health Suit May Be Remanded

     SAN FRANCISCO - Remand to California court is likely for a class action alleging that the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan denies adequate and timely access to mental health services, a federal judge ruled.
     Susan Futterman, Megan Mortenson and Acianita Lucero are the lead plaintiffs in a class action against Kaiser.
     Futterman said her husband committed suicide while waiting for an appointment with a psychiatrist; Mortenson said she faced long waits for appointments until she told Kaiser's Member Services Department the wait times were beyond those allowed by California law, and then she got an appointment 25 miles from her house; and Lucero allegedly waited more than 48 hours when she sought crisis-care services though California has a timely access law demands for urgent care.
     Kaiser removed the case from Alameda County Superior Court to the Northern District of California and then moved to dismiss.
     U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson agreed Friday that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) pre-empts Mortenson's state-law causes of action.
     After dismissing those claims without prejudice, the judge gave the plaintiffs until March 21 to amend their complaint to state their claims under ERISA.
     The court did not, however, dismiss the other state-law claims outright.
     "If plaintiffs decline to plead any ERISA claims, and they indicated at the hearing that they may not, then there will be no remaining federal questions in this case, and the court will be inclined to decline to exercise federal supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs' remaining state causes of action and remand this case to state court," Henderson wrote. "Given the likelihood of remand, and in the interests of judicial economy and comity, the court reserves decision on Kaiser's remaining argument pending plaintiff's possible amendment."