Kaiser - recent experiences switching from PPO to Kaiser

We are considering switching from our PPO to Kaiser due to rising costs of insurance, and interested in experiences of people who have switched to Kaiser from a PPO plan recently. In particular, we are interested in whether it was difficult to find primary care physicians and pediatricians that you like (and whether it is difficult to get appointments within about a month or two time frame), and other thoughts and impressions on the change. Thank you.

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I love Kaiser. It never takes long to get an appointment. If you’re picky, it may take a while to find doctors you like, but I generally find them all to be very professional, and it’s easy to see anyone of you have a sudden concern. Love that everything is in house and under “one” roof. 

A couple of years ago we switched from a PPO to  Kaiser and we marveled at why we hadn’t done it sooner. It is just so easy having the whole family and all of your doctors in one system; and if you need tests, X-rays, whatever, just wandering down the hall to that department and getting it done instead of making separate appointments and trips to random medical offices is so nice. We were happy with the pediatric care we received, and had no problem making appointments including same day sick ones. 

I’m sure this can vary depending on plan there, but the cost savings seemed substantial. Our son even broke his arm requiring surgery, and we were shocked at how little it was relative to what it probably would have been elsewhere. (And his surgeons were excellent).

Sadly I switched jobs recently and don’t have Kaiser as an offering anymore, and we all miss it.

We made the switch from PPO to Kaiser last year and I'm pretty happy with it. I particularly love the way Kaiser shares info between departments - I'm prepping for an upcoming surgery that has involved coordination between my primary physician, imaging, surgery and other departments, and I never have to explain my situation or bring in x-rays or whatever - they all have all the info. When my doctor recommends a test or a shot, it's easy to get in the same complex where her office is, rather than having to go to a third-party lab. The doctors I found recommended online were mostly not taking new patients, but with a little research and reading of reviews we found primary care doctors for the whole family that we're happy with. Everyone I've interacted with at Kaiser Oakland has been friendly and helpful. I haven't had any trouble getting timely appointments (usually within a week or two and sometimes the same week), especially since a lot of things can be taken care of with video appointments these days. I'd say the only issue we've come up against is that Kaiser isn't everywhere - my child who is at college has had to pay out-of-pocket for some things that would have been free or low-cost here because there is no Kaiser facility nearby for them, and once on vacation my mom had to drive quite a ways to find a Kaiser pharmacy when she needed a refill of a prescription. But overall I'm happy we made the switch..

Have been with Kaiser for 5+ years now and had been a reluctant convert, likening it to vertically integrated Apple.  Although I had some docs I hated to leave behind initially, its been a good experience overall. Finding  docs you like is more about how particular you are, and then seeking out referrals from people you trust. Switching is simple.  Pediatrics was a breeze..  Worst complaint is that we occasionally had to see a different doc if it was an urgent appointment.. My spouse has had excellent outcomes with 2 joint replacement surgeries, and is recuperating from his 3rd, with an  encouraging trajectory. I've had very good primary care docs, and I'm happy as a clam tgat my PCP has moved into the new Berkeley location. Very convenient for me.

20+ year Kaiser member here. Have never had to wait more than a couple weeks for a non-urgent appt. and urgent ones usually in a day or two. Maybe I am lucky but the very idea of waiting a month or two for an appointment is not on my radar at Kaiser. It could also be since they have multiple docs in every specialty so someone is always available. Kaiser is the biggest health insurer in the area, about half the population of Berkeley belongs to it, and that gives it many advantages. When I needed major elective surgery I got it in 6 weeks, and major urgent surgery in less than two weeks (urgent but not an emergency). Both times with the best surgeon as recommended by multiple friends and other docs. Both times my total surgery bill was $150. Needless to say, I am a devoted member.

PS forgot to mention that you can choose and switch primary care docs at any time. Some may be full, but keep trying. 

Oh gosh, you will be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to find primary care physicians and pediatricians you like at Kaiser - there are so many great doctors there! Most do their training at top Bay Area (and further) medical schools (UCSF, Stanford) and then go work at Kaiser for the higher pay and better QOL. You can easily change doctors, too, if you feel at first you don't "click". Or just repost here w/ request for recommendations based on which Kaiser campus is most convenient for you. As for appointments, no - it is not difficult to get appts in a very timely manner. One of the great things about Kaiser is there is always someone available for things like pediatric illness checks, etc. I have found the onus of obtaining good care is more squarely on the shoulders of PPO patients - you're on your own! Whereas for Kaiser everything is coordinated for you and easy to access.

We did this recently for the same reasons. On the plus side, appointments are easy to get, their advice line is always available and reasonably helpful, and there is now a Berkeley location (not sure where you are, but for us this is super-convenient). Standard care (vaccination, blood work, pharmacy etc.) is also very easy and things like COVID tests are also accessible and efficient. We like our pediatrician, but I'm not 100% happy with my PCP. But it's easy to switch, so you can try different doctors until on you find one to your liking. Kaiser is like a big factory. It's fairly efficient, but not very personal. I do miss my former doctor. We haven't had any serious medical issues since we switched, so can't really comment on that.

I have had other insurance and prefer Kaiser.I have not had a problem with long wait times and I like that you do not have to go to the same Kaiser for everything.It has been years,but when I was looking for a primary Doctor there were more choices towards the end of each month so keep checking back if you want to change Doctors.I am very happy with Kaiser.

Due to job changes I have been on Kaiser, switched to PPO, then back to Kaiser for the past 3 years.  The doctors at Kaiser are wonderful.  But getting to a doctor will drive you crazy.  Since COVID Kaiser has made it insanely difficult to talk to a doctor or medical professional who is not reading off a script.  Expect to spend hours if not days trying to get medical care.  I've talked to others and they are telling me the same thing.  It's just nuts how difficult Kaiser has made it to get basic health care.  My wife, family and I can't wait to get off of Kaiser.  You might save some money, but it's going to cost you time, the hour or hours you will spend on hold just trying to make an appointment only to find the earliest appointment is in a month.
Kaiser will assign you to a doctor and then you won't get the same doctor every visit.  I have not seen the same doctor twice in over two years.

Your experience might vary, but I doubt it. 

Kaiser is efficient and convenient in many ways. For all standards things, it works well. The problem is if you have conditions that don’t fit the common scenarios and you need a specialist, it can get rather frustrating. You don’t choose a specialist. If you dislike your specialist or don’t agree with their opinion and you want a second opinion, it can get very frustrating. I have been lucky with all my doctors and specialists and our child’s pediatrician is fantastic. Any concerns I bring up have been addressed fully and I feel that I didn’t have to fight for MRIs, tests, etc. (my old PPO plan denied the MRI order which my doctor had to appeal.) My spouse has had the absolute bad luck with the doctors there. you have to advocate for yourself within the Kaiser system. Be armed with your own research and ask for things.  If you need mental health coverage, forget it. Kaiser mental health is a joke. I do get nervous when we travel outside Kaiser coverage area. They only cover emergency treatment, so one time we cut our vacation shorty and flew back home because we were concerned about the potential medical bill while in another state.