An algorithm, not a doctor, predicted a rapid recovery for Frances Walter, an 85-year-old Wisconsin woman with a shattered left shoulder and an allergy to pain medicine. In 16.6 days, it estimated, she would be ready to leave her nursing home.
On the 17th day, her Medicare Advantage insurer, Security Health Plan, followed the algorithm and cut off payment for her care, concluding she was ready to return to the apartment where she lived alone. Meanwhile, medical notes in June 2019 showed Walter’s pain was maxing out the scales and that she could not dress herself, go to the bathroom, or even push a walker without help.
It would take more than a year for a federal judge to conclude the insurer’s decision was “at best, speculative” and that Walter was owed thousands of dollars for more than three weeks of treatment. While she fought the denial, she had to spend down her life savings and enroll in Medicaid just to progress to the point of putting on her shoes, her arm still in a sling.
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