By - DrBraveMoon
You know the downsides of Kaiser. The benefit is that you never get an unexpected multi-thousand bill in the mail. No out-of-network surprises etc.
I gave birth at Kaiser (Geary), it was a mixed bag. The birth went smoothly and the staff was great. But they had unlimited visitors policy and the couple that was in the same postpartum room as us had the room filled with friends and family. It was extremely uncomfortable.
Had ours during the pandemic, no visitors allowed. We had our own room also.
My wife gave birth at Kaiser Dec 2021. Generally agree with this, except we had a private room.
No out of pocket expenses and the care we received was generally great. My wife felt well cared for before during and after. Only things I would say is the Geary location is pretty old and dated, the food was VERY basic and recovery room wasn’t very comfortable.
Generally I would very highly recommend Kaiser.
We had a close friend give birth at Sutter CPMC on Van Ness (the new one) and they also had a very good experience. If you get a choice to go there with your other insurance option it’s worth checking out.
Edit: very good experience at Sutter!
Ack! What is the missing word? “also had a very experience”
Whoa, 2017 I had my own room at Geary. Didnt know one could share.
Been there 3x for this (as dad). Most post-partum rooms are private, there's a few shared. Sleep arrangements for dads sucks.
Ask for no early (non-nurse) visitors before 7am. Love the records guy, but don't need them or the photographer coming in when trying to get sleep.
This sounds like outdated info
Yeah but pandemic is also different circumstances - 2020-early 2022 of course it is gonna be solo.
So I am curious about the writer, when did you have a roommate?
Pre-pandemic, not sure what it is like now. Most of their rooms were single family but they had a couple that were shared. Their visitor policies likely have changed now. What I was trying to say is that with Kaiser it is often a mix of good and bad experiences at the same time.
Was this recently? Last year they had your own private room and were actually only allowing 2 other people in the room.
I was born at a Kaiser hospital, 10/10 would recommend
I would actually recommend avoiding birth if you can - it will save you a lot of hassle.
Me too! 🙌🏻
I've always heard that kaiser is basically what you want to have for pregnancy and what you want to avoid for mental health care.
Getting mental health care from kaiser is likely to cause you psychological and emotional trauma in and of itself.
But they'll take great care of your body.
Meh, depends how easy it is for them. They've X-Rayed my knees 3 times in the past 15 years, starting when I was in 4th grade because I was complaining my knees hurt. Each time they told me they don't see anything so I must be fine. 3 times.
I was told in NC before I moved that I’d eventually need surgery on my ankle and that they saw damage. Got an MRI at Kaiser and they said I was fine. I feel like they don’t want the expense when they are also the insurer.
Not sure about your specific situation of course, but if anything I feel it’s the opposite. Since the Kaiser staff is salaried they have no reason to lie, but in private practice has more incentive to say you need surgery since they can profit from it. Of course there are going to be bad/good doctors at Kaiser or in private practice so I can’t fully generalize.
This is totally fair and I didn’t think of that but should have.
I finally got an appointment after months of trying to talk about serious anxiety I was having that was making my chest go numb and my brain to just fog up while driving(leaving a lot out but essentially my main concern was it just hitting me for no reason daily) and she told me, listen to meditation podcasts and come back in three months. No exaggeration, she had nothing else to say. Appointment was 15 minutes long because she had others to get to and I was just not in the right spot to call her on it.
Then i got a 250 dollar bill in the mail for some reason.
Never again. I ended up having to deal with my shit myself because I literally had no other outlet. After a couple years I havent had any other panic attacks or just shut off like I used to. I feel awful for people who have it worse and NEED services NOW
My mom was nearly at the breaking point when my sister went off the deep end just as my father was diagnosed with lung cancer and lung disease (or maybe just lung cancer, but worst lung cancer than they thought) and she was spinning out and yeah, they were like "huh, sounds like a lot, try the app and we'll see about maybe real therapy in several months"
Its embarrassing how bad it is
This right here. I had 3 pregnancies and births at Kaiser. The care was really good. For my births, I never had to share a room postpartum. They were really proactive with tests, specialists, etc. I had the same luck with pediatrics.
But I eventually left Kaiser because of the mental health care being abysmal and plainly inaccessible. General Medicine is also just average, it takes a lot of convincing to get them to send you to a specialist.
Just want to note that Kaiser's mental health staff recently went on strike to get better staffing for their mental health patients, so this should improve.
They’ve gone on strike multiple times in the past decade, and if anything conditions have gotten worse over time. Even being sued by the state for their woeful care here doesn’t seem to have made a difference. At least not one I can perceive as a patient.
It’s been 61 days and still no movement…..
Huh, I'd read that it was over: [https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/kaiser-strike-northern-california-ends-17523633.php](https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/kaiser-strike-northern-california-ends-17523633.php)
Has something changed since then?
I’m getting ready to switch to Kaiser from bcbs, who has been awful for surprise bills. Including 13k for an MRI because there were two machines at the in-network facility and the in-network radiologist used the out-of-network machine.
Also, the fact that Kaiser has mental health coverage at all makes them better than bcbs. It’s 100% out of pocket there.
Good luck getting mental health services from Kaiser.
This comes up in every single discussion involving Kaiser, and I always say the same thing: I see a psychiatrist through Kaiser, and everything about that experience has been truly excellent. I was referred in by my PCP when my psych med needs got a little more complex and warranted the referral. My psychiatrist is great, listens to me, and is responsive to my concerns. I have literally zero complaints about Kaiser *psychiatry*.
The thing people complain about is seeing a *therapist* through Kaiser. *That*, I'm sure, is a horrible experience for multiple reasons. I see my therapist privately and out of pocket and have no desire to try to navigate that system.
My sister had plenty of problems with Kaiser psychiatry, ugh. They never listened and just shoved incredibly hard core drugs on her without any regard for the side effects. I'm talking 100 lbs weight gain, nerve damage, just insane stuff because they couldn't be bothered to approach it with nuance, it was just like "oh you're bipolar? Here, have the best sledgehammer stabilizers and antipsychotics the 1960s had to offer".
I'm glad you had a good experience, but it's not just the psychology side they can be lacking on.
This must be *some* doctors. I had a great experience with psychology and psychiatry. I credit them with really helping me through a very dark time. I was also seen pretty quickly. I hate that not everyone had the same experience.
I gave birth at a Kaiser hospital in the East Bay, no complaints. I also had fertility care through Kaiser, and that was also great and not super expensive (my plan fully covers everything except infertility, which we paid at 50%). Kaiser is usually great for ANYTHING EXCEPT MENTAL HEALTH.
I know someone whose baby had an emergency at birth, Kaiser sent baby to UCSF for NICU, it was all covered. They just had to pay for parking, if I’m remembering correctly.
FWIW my wife and I are expecting. I have Kaiser and my wife has Aetna PPO (effectively equivalent with the Blue Shield PPO). We are planning on having our child at CPMC under her insurance, but setting her up with a pediatrician at Kaiser immediately when she's born.
(She's nominally "high risk", but only because she's a bit over 35. Otherwise in generally good health.)
We've had numerous friends have their children at CPMC who had fantastic experiences. Including a few that came in from like... Moraga. Can't speak to UCSF.
I recently switched *back* to Kaiser off Blue Shield HMO. I literally never used my Blue Shield for primary case because finding a PCP who was taking new patients was impossible, plus the general overhead of not having a centralized online portal for appointments.
Plus I was drowning in redundant bills and invoices any time I had any minor medical visit... even when I didn't owe any money, I'd get like 3 bills or invoices from various entities months after the visit. Just stupid bureaucratic administrative bullshit spewing out of this insane American health insurance Rube-Goldberg machine.
If I develop any serious health complications I'd probably switch back to a PPO if I want to meet with a very specific specialist of my choice. But I'm in good health and for routine maintenance and check-ups, Kaiser's just easy and streamlined.
>when I ask about diet and eczema, my PCP basically told me there's nothing you can do about eczema so just take the steroids
In fairness, this isn't a Kaiser thing. Modern Western medicine generally sucks at systemic health and well-being... all their training and the entire healthcare apparatus is built around fixing what's broken, and treating symptoms rather than root causes. I've had doctor friends complain to me they feel more like mechanics than anything else. That mess unfortunately opens up a window for all sorts of unscientific Goop-ish quackery. When you're dealing with issues like that, you just need to do your own research and have your bullshit meter on high alert.
I had two normal healthy pregnancies (under age 35) with Kaiser SF and had a great experience both times. My friend who had Kaiser (in Vallejo) had very bad experience with two miscarriages. Very dismissive and didn’t even offer a d&c. If I were to have a potentially complicated pregnancy or birth, I’d probably go for blue shield. Kaiser is great if you’re healthy and able but if you need specialized care, I’ve heard it’s generally not great.
I was born at Kaiser and had a kid at Kaiser. My pregnancy and birthing experience was great. Seems I came out ok too. Regarding other services it can be a hit or miss.
Everyone here has said Kaiser, but one thing they overlook is the benefits UCSF provide to the Blue Shield network.
Not only do you have access to literally some of the best doctors in the world, the fact that they have multiple campuses throughout the city means finding a primary care doctor near you isn't that hard (certainly wasn't in my case). My company offered either Kaiser or Blue Shield, and the copay was the same for me for both plans, so in my experience price hasn't been a hurdle.
My partner, who is on a Kaiser plan, has had a really tough experience getting an MRI over the past year. It feels they don't want to refer her to an in network specialist because they don't believe there is a persisting issue, so she has had to jump through multiple hoops to schedule her own out of their network, and then hopefully bill it back to them. I've never had a single issue with getting care I believe I need while under the BS plan.
The benefits of a PPO plan when getting mental health care is also huge. I love my own network of specialists I found, and they all accept BS.
While I agree about UCSF. It takes like 2 months to get maternity appointments at UCSF unless its an emergency and you see a different doctor each time.
I actually loved seeing a different Dr or Midwife with each appointment. They had different perspectives and i was there all the time anyway it felt like. Plus I had met my delivery on call dr that way.
Hell yeah and the mission bay campus is brand new and a wonderful facility to give birth. You do have to be comfortable with it being a teaching hospital but we had a great experience. The rooms are awesome too
Not pregnant or planning to be, but I'm looking for a good primary care doc. Are there any specific UCSF docs you recommend?
Every time I call UCSF, they aren't taking on new adult pcp patients
I don’t think you get a choice. I called a UCSF office (it was a general primary care office, with lots of doctors) asking for a new primary care physician. None of them took new patients.
Find one first, then find out if they are good.
UCSF birth center was amazing, the team of doctors, staff and midwives were all there to support the birth. Private room w large windows and view, such a beautiful experience for first time parents. Guest were limited to one partner and a doula only. It might be differ now but they are careful w covid still. Depends on your insurance, there should not be any surprises.
This is true if you made it into the UCSF primary care system prior to the pandemic. They stopped accepting new primary care patients at all of their SF locations over a year ago. Even had a friend who has been seeing her PCP at UCSF for over a decade, once the doc retired this year they told her they couldn’t find her a new one.
Oh man that's crazy, fingers crossed my provider doesn't suddenly retire!
I grew up mostly in the bay area and my parents are both physicians that practiced here. My mother is a pediatrician that started her career at Kaiser. Kaiser is usually lower cost and fine as long as nothing goes wrong. She quickly left Kaiser because they run it too much as a business (kaisers background is not in medicine and their roots are heavily finance driven) and patient care suffers especially if something goes wrong. They try to keep things as cheap as possible and lag on tests and procedures where timing can be very important. CPMC has a strong foundation in pediatrics and is usually wonderful. We had two children there and needed emergency surgery a couple of times that saved their lives. They have some great specialists in their network. They can have issues too. We had to go to the ED recently for one of our kids and the ED doctor was terrible. We had to get my parents involved and find our own specialist because he brushed it off as nothing. Turned out he was wrong and completely mistaken on proper procedures. So any system can have incompetent doctors. UCSF has a lot of top notch surgeons, and unfortunately they have done a bunch of work on people that received botched surgeries from Kaiser. I know 2 individuals that had this happen. If it's a common surgery Kaiser is usually fine but if it requires a specialist and they don't have one available they will often slot someone that is not as familiar and you roll the dice. The last thing, we know a lot of physicians over the years through my parents and I can't recall a single physician that has their family on Kaiser insurance unless they work there. If Kaiser is your only option and money is tight I don't think it's a problem but if you have options I would consider something else. Just an opinion. Good luck.
I have three kids, the oldest and youngest born through Kaiser, the middle one born through Blue Shield.
We had a great experience through Kaiser, the first in the old Oakland delivery unit that is now gone. It was nice because I could pop down to Piedmont Ave and get a good meal and smuggle some goodies up to my wife. Our last child we decided to have in San Leandro. The building was newer and nicer. I don't think we spent more than $300 over the pregnancy to have each kid at Kaiser.
Our middle son was supposed to be born at Alta Bates in Berkeley but my wife miscalculated, we left too late and he was born in the car, five minutes from the hospital. After a short ambulance ride mom and baby got all checked out and taken care of. I was thinking because we gave birth in the car that we would save some money but we got a $2000-3000 bill for the ambulance and hospital services. Not terrible but not expected.
If Blue Shield is accepted at CPMC i highly recommend it. Being able to go to a private practice OBGYN who you know will deliver your baby is great.
I just had a baby at CMPC (I have United) 5 months ago and it was a great experience. I actually enjoyed my labor and delivery. Not kidding. Also, my OB was and is phenomenal (Dr. Chan at Pacific Women's). I don't say this lightly - I was terrified of having a bad experience.
Having said that, I have friends who've had babies at Kaiser and their experiences were fine.
+1 for Pacific Women’s! I love Dr Moy. She will spend an hour explaining things. Called me on a Friday at 8 PM to discuss an early miscarriage when it was not urgent.
But boy do I miss Kaiser’s ease of appointment making as compared to Blue Shield -which is different for every doctor’s office or group!
KP all the way. Kudos if you can get to Dan Leandro facility. Pretty new and great maternity ward. Just my experience. I had united for out first born and that sucked getting out of network bills for things.
I had United in SF. Impossible. Barely anything is in-network. Cost me thousands. I've had a good experience with Anthem and BCBS.
Kaiser without a doubt.
Honestly consider changing your PCP at Kaiser! I mentioned to mine that I wanted to get an allergy test done after realizing this constant congestion isn’t normal and she set it up for me ASAP. Also was help with getting on lexapro. Could be your doc!
100% Blue Shield for the UCSF network. I have a high risk medical condition as well, and have been treating UCSF as my primary facility for nearly a decade. Cost is likely a little higher (I also do PPO because I usually hit my max anyway) but you can't beat the quality, access to specialists, and flexibility to get the care you need. I also had a high risk pregnancy last year and it was a really positive experience - there was so much care and knowledge put into all the extra appointments. They also provided access to lots of free group classes throughout the pregnancy. Where they went above and beyond - they proactively reached out to keep my hematologist (also in the UCSF family) in the loop during my birthing experience, just in case I needed specialist support. I've always had to advocate for myself, and UCSF is the first place that I've trusted to advocate for me as well.
Kaiser is great if you are healthy. If not then it's not great. I have united. It costs more. I was diagnosed with cancer this year and thankful I didn't switch to Kaiser. I've never received and out of network bill. Ever. Once I hit my out of pocket max I am not billed anything. The total cost of my cancer care will end up around $500k.
I mean, my Kaiser plan covers all cancer for $0. It’s really subjective.
Kaiser is always cheaper. It's just not the best. I found the two best specialists for the specific type of cancer I had (one at Stanford and one at ucsf). Was it worth a few thousand dollars to ensure I had the best care with my life on the line. Absolutely.
I had partial kidney removal from kidney cancer with Kaiser. My only expense was two $25 copays for doctor office visits. Yup, $50 for all the cat scans, MRI's, ultrasounds, surgery, hospital stay. Never had to meet any out of pocket deductibles before coverage kicked in. My doctors were great. Also, they found the cancer by chance by being proactive with testing for an unrelated symptom. I like Kaiser, everything went smooth because everything is in-house. Didn't have to self advocate, they did everything for me.
I joined a bunch of online support groups when diagnosed. Lots of people complained about Kaiser with very specific examples. Kaiser is the cheapest. No doubt. I'm glad it worked out for you. But for me, if my life is on the line, I'm going to want to find the very best doctor. You don't have that option with Kaiser. It's a trade off. But I'd rather spend a few grand to have the best and you know not be dead.
Been with Kaiser for 20+ years and wouldn't dream of going with any other company. My kid was born at Geary. Experienced the whole range - ER visits, broken bones, emergency surgery, planned surgery, therapy, PT, sports injuries...
Yeah, you may need to ask a couple of times, but would you rather someone pushed you into an operation that wasn't essential?
I had two high risk pregnancies at Kaiser. I had top tier care, literally. The high risk doctors could have worked anywhere in the country with their specialized educations. Both babies were born full term, completely normal vaginal births. So hopefully there are no surprises of course, but I really liked my care team in Marin County and San Francisco.
What I would give to be back on Kaiser again. It’s the easiest. Everything is right there in one building. Just keep Kaiser!
I was at Kaiser Geary and could not recommend it enough. They took seriously every question I had as a first time mom. When things went south during delivery, I have to say that the professionals there really handled everything with such care that it actually redefined for me what healthcare should be. I was between the two and am so incredibly glad I decided to go with Kaiser.
Big blue shield fan here! I had two pregnancies and childbirths through ucsf mission bay and LOVED the care I received. My prenatal care plus hospital birth was $200. Total. I knew I had the best specialists if anything went wrong. Loves the new birthing suites and lived the air and gas that only they provide as pain management in SF. We now use UCSF pediatrics for the kiddos and it’s been great. Not to mention UCSF Bennioff Children’s hospital is covered. I’m honestly shocked so many people are praising Kaiser. I’m sure it’s not bad. But I can’t imagine they have the specialist at their fingertips like UCSF.
I'm biased. My SIL is a delivery nurse at the SF Kaiser...I think they are pretty good.
Trying to get basic stuff done...multiple demands to get the basic care...yup, pretty typical Kaiser. Not having to pay tons for extra stuff - probably well worth it for pregnancy. I cannot speak to high risk Kaiser vs UCSF.
I was induced and in hospital for 6 days. Ended up with emergency C-section. All Kaiser. I paid $100. I paid for my own doula since I have no family near by. They wouldn't let her in the operating room. My baby was born healthy. I had some complications. I have anxiety and did not feel taken care of mentally at Kaiser. One of the nurses pushed oxy on me because her C-section was painful. I didn't need it but felt very pressured. They also pressured me to breastfeed. My son lost too much weight and then they "allowed" me to feed him formula for a couple of days. Could just be the cards I was dealt. This was in 2017.
I've never been pregnant, but had an abysmal time accessing specialized GYN care with Kaiser. If you're low-risk, healthy, and don't anticipate any complications, it may work out better for you.
UCSF isn’t taking any new patients, but I do not recommend Kaiser for anything, ever. Facilities are dirty and specialty care is horrible, not sure about OB floor, but it’s all the same system when you need anything. Nurses are always gossiping in the halls. One patient had to flush his own drains because the nurse didn’t know how. I am not making this up.
I guarantee you that once you have the baby Kaiser will not give one shit about you.
Not in SF but in Oakland. My pregnancy care through Blue Shield PPO has been amazing. I’ve never paid more than $30 for a visit including multiple MFM scans and an echocardiogram out of network.
My experience a while ago at kaiser walnut creek. Birthing room was luxury status. Recovery room was a shared shitty tiny room
CPMC Van Ness delivery. Get Blue Shield.
I like Kaiser over Blue shield. The reason is that with Kaiser, if your doctor says you need a CT scan or an MRI scan, then you will be scheduled for one as soon as possible. Blue Shield has way too many unnecessary steps. You need a scan; you have to get approval from another doctor. Blue shield will see if it's part of your plan or if the place they send you will have to be verified if it is in Blue shields network. Kaiser is not like that. They allow doctors to be doctors. Go with Kaiser a lot less paperwork and worrying. Their paediatrics department is damn good!
I can’t speak for Kaiser because I’ve never been a member, but I gave birth twice at CPMC. I actually started my prenatal care with my first with UCSF but ended up switching due to a really bad first appt. I was generally happy with my birth experiences at CPMC. Post partum care could’ve been better but this was a week prior to the nursing strike. Private rooms, nice views. I will say that the hospital Food there is inedible.
You'll pay way more out of pocket with Blue Shield: deductible, coinsurance, copay, balance billing for any non-preferrred provider or facility.
I had my daughter at Kaiser (Geary) way back in 1995. It wasn't an easy birth and we had a 3 day hospital stay, which was unusual even then. I have zero complaints about the care I received and both the birth and 3 day hospital stay were 100% covered.
Oh, and our room was private.
I’ve had one miscarriage and two healthy births with Kaiser and they were great all three times. I had a private room both times.
One thing I really liked about Kaiser is how much they took care of for you. My HR lady had all this paperwork for me to add my new kid to my insurance, but the second I said I had Kaiser, she put it all away and said they would handle all of it for me. Given how stressful a newborn + pregnancy is, this was lovely.
I had Kaiser during my pregnancy. It was exactly what you described, during pregnancy. My obgyn kept insisting on minimal check ins despite me having multiple risk factors, previous miscarriages, and pre-eclampsia. I had to fight to get ultrasounds, non-stress tests, anything more than a 15 minute conversations that might as well have been "Do you have any questions or concerns? Oh you do? That's too bad because the 15 minutes is up." The birth experience itself was awful because every few hours it was a different doctor and either they didn't communicate with each other or they intentionally disregarded everything I had discussed with the previous doctor and reset to the standardized path they were trying to push me along. It was infuriating. After two days without sleep I dozed off and when I woke up literally the reverse had been done if everything I had planned out with the previous doctor and the nurse just gave an apologetic shrug and that was that. Then they discharged me without getting my blood pressure under control and I was admitted again through the ER within a few hours. Miserable. It was over a year ago and I'm still angry about it all.
That been said, I have no idea how it would have been with Blue Shield. It couldn't have been much worse, but it might not have been better either.
Had a baby at UCSF in 2021, have BCBS. Spent two nights in NICU. We ended paying less than a grand for everything, from 3 months to birth.
Used to work at Kaiser. They have excellent MFMs and regularly pay for transfers to UCSF when the better care is there (such as fetal heart problems). They are also very flexible and supportive with delivery options. I also had blue cross at a different point in time and they always “accidentally” made claim processing errors in their favor that I had to discover and contest. I would go with Kaiser
To me it has always seemed like on a good day Kaiser is a great choice but when something requires more specialization of care they fall apart. There are delays and it all requires a lot more advocating for yourself. Personally I want to be somewhere that is the great choice for a bad day. I would choose Blue Shield no question and then have the freedom to find the healthcare team that suits me.
Just a note, look at not just ucsf but sutter. We have a moderate blue shield PPO and had just absolutely amazing prenatal care and delivery w sutter high risk. Message me for OB recs. Referrals were very easy.
So sutter CAN be expensive but everything depends on contracted rates and your plan coverage.
UCSF is a teaching hospital. Sutter is not.
UCSF is fantastic for pregnancy and childbirth. I have BCBS and with my plan paid $175 per childbirth.
If you opt for Blue Shield check out CPMC and UCSF and compare for yourself.. I had such a bad experience with the L&D team at UCSF that despite liking my MFM I found someone else with hospital access to CPMC/Sutter Health. I also had Kaiser for two other pregnancies. I really enjoyed Kaiser and having all the medical information readily available was fantastic. It was also low cost which was nice.
For CPMC, I had a high risk pregnancy and we ended up needing to have one of my twins in the NICU for an extended. Sutter Health does a much better job of bedside and their neonatologists, pediatric endocrinologists, L&D staff, and neonatal nurses were fantastic. If you suspect that you’ll likely end up needing to use the NICU and it’s your primary reason for wanting to go UCSF, I highly encourage you to reach out to CPMC and get a feel for them.
If you’re going to do anything involving IVF, Kaiser is not your friend.
I had a baby in kaiser, I almost die there. You can’t choose who will receive your baby, so could be a resident or anyone is available. There are good doctors too, but if you are expecting near holidays forgot good doctors be available.