Kaiser Permanente launches union-partnered $130M nonprofit

Kaiser Permanente, a major nonprofit health system based in California, has partnered with Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEUI-UHW) to launch Futuro Health, a $130 million nonprofit organization.

The new organization comes after Kaiser and its roughly 57,000 unionized workers reached a new agreement toward the end of 2019 as a result of months of testy negotiations. The health system’s unionized workers had voted to strike in early October after labor negotiations broke down. The new nonprofit, which is dedicated to growing the number of certified healthcare workers in California and across the nation, was part of the contract negotiations last year, Kaiser confirmed to Health Exec. The new agreement included many demands from union workers, including guaranteed wage increases, more transparency from the nonprofit and a number of workforce training and education initiatives.

Futuro Health will invest in allied health education and skills training and retraining, with the goal to graduate 10,000 new licensed, credentialed allied healthcare workers in California over the next four years. The demand for healthcare workers in California is expected to reach 500,000 by 2024.

“Kaiser Permanente recognizes California’s healthcare industry is facing a projected workforce shortage of half a million people over the next few years,” Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Greg Adams said in a statement. “By investing in health education, skills training, and retraining programs with Futuro Health, Kaiser Permanente, in collaboration with SEIU-UHW, is leading efforts to reverse the shortage trend. This investment effort is consistent with our Nurse Scholars Academy and mental health postgraduate training program.”

Allied healthcare services provide clinical and administrative work and support professionals, such as vocational nurses, medical coders, health information technicians, radiologic technicians and laboratory workers. These workers are sometimes referred to as the “hidden healthcare workforce,” according to Kaiser, while their services are in high demand and are expected to be needed even more in the future as the population ages and Americans need more care. This career also requires increasing credentialing, therefore increasing the barrier of entry with higher schooling costs.

Futuro Health will first focus its work in California with an affordable education-to-work solution and bring the model to other states. Education planning, financing and personal mentoring as part of the program could help more students get to the next level of credentialing and ease the barrier of heavy student debt. The program will include mentoring from career exploration and coaching, education financing and target education-to-work pathways. The union, which has nearly 100,000 members, will work with the new nonprofit and Kaiser to scout, recruit and coach students.                                                                                       

“Futuro Health represents a new model for tackling the workforce shortage and training workers especially when they no longer stay with one employer for long,” Dave Regan, president of SEIU-UHW, said in a statement. “Ensuring that all people have access to high-quality, affordable health care and a living wage is a priority of SEIU-UHW.” 

Futuro Health will be lead by Van Ton-Quinlivan, who will serve as CEO. She most recently served as executive vice chancellor of workforce and digital futures of the California Community Colleges, which is the largest higher education system in the nation with 115 institutions. She was also a former appointee of California Governor Jerry Brown, driving education investments, and was named California Steward Leader by the California Economic Summit and White House Champion of Change by the Obama administration.

“I am honored to lead Futuro Health,” Ton-Quinlivan said in the announcement. “Our work is to create access to opportunity and lower the barriers that many individuals face when it comes to social mobility. This will also ensure more equitable access to good patient care across our country, state and communities.”