Kaiser Permanente board member quits amid questions over conflicts

Dr. Christine Cassel resigned her seat on Kaiser Permanente's board. Above, a Kaiser hospital in Fresno.
(Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

A board member of healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente has stepped down amid questions over a possible conflict of interest involving her role at a leading medical organization.

Dr. Christine Cassel serves as chief executive of the National Quality Forum, which recommends best practices for hospitals and other healthcare organizations across the country.

After ethical questions were raised about her outside work, Cassel resigned Wednesday from the boards of Oakland-based Kaiser and from that of Premier Inc., which provides purchasing and consulting services to hospitals.

“I will miss my service on the boards but I do not wish this issue to interfere with the important work facing NQF,” Cassel said in a statement. “The importance of performance measurement, quality improvement and multistakeholder engagement is critical to advancing the quality and safety of U.S. healthcare, and I look forward to continuing to serve NQF as we move forward.”

An article from investigative reporting website ProPublica this month drew attention to her board ties. ProPublica reported that Cassel received about $235,000 in compensation and stock as a board member for Premier in 2013, and $189,000 as a board member for Kaiser in 2012.


The National Union of Healthcare Workers, whose members include 5,000 Kaiser employees in California, said it welcomed Cassel’s move.

“This is a victory for patients and caregivers and a victory for transparency in the top echelons of the healthcare industry,” Sal Rosselli, president of NUHW, said in a statement.

“The National Quality Forum plays a huge role in our hospitals by defining the ‘best practices’ that our caregivers use. Healthcare workers and patients need to be certain that money from giant HMOs like Kaiser isn’t corrupting NQF’s decision-making process.”


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