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California-Based Kaiser Permanente To Acquire Group Health

Group Health members are reacting to the news of Kaiser Permanente acquiring the Seattle-based cooperative.

KUOW’s Ruby de Luna went to Edmonds where she found loyal, longtime members.


It’s noontime at Harbor Square Athletic Club. More than a dozen older adults are getting ready for Silver Sneakers, a group exercise class.

Seventy-three year old Mattie Robinson hears the news about the acquisition for the first time.

Robinson: “I hope they keep it the way it is.”

Robinson and her husband joined Group Health 50 years ago and have stayed with the co-op ever since.

Robinson: “I like my doctors and I like that you can go there for everything…they have all the specialists right there.”

Gene Chard: “Okay, I’m here. We can start…”

Eighty-seven-year-old Gene Chard walks in to class. He’s also a longtime Group Health member.

Chard: “It’s like socialized medicine, but on a personal basis instead of a governmental basis.”

Group Health was one of the nation’s first health care cooperatives. It was formed in 1945 by a group of idealistic physicians. According to, the concept was radical at the time: pre-paid medical care and an emphasis on preventive care.

The local branch of the American Medical Association opposed the move. In its first year, Group Health’s enrollment was 20,000 people, most of them workers who built ships and planes during World War II.

Today, Group Health has 590,000 members. Kaiser currently serves about 10 million people across the country.

As part of the acquisition, Kaiser will contribute $1.8 million towards a new Group Health community foundation. It will also invest another billion to upgrade clinics, provide better access to care and continue research.

Group Health says the transition will take up to a year, and will require final approval from voting members and regulators.

Year started with KUOW: 1994