U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Cory Booker want to know what government agencies and insurance providers are doing to make sure health systems avoid the use of biased algorithms.
Wyden and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Booker have written letters about this topic to CMS, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and high-ranking executives from UnitedHealth Group, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna Corporation, Humana and Aetna. Racial bias was recently uncovered in an algorithm used to manage patient care, a revelation that sparked the creation of these letters.
In each letter, the two senators asked for answers about what is being done to avoid the implementation of flawed algorithms.
“In using algorithms, organizations often attempt to remove human flaws and biases from the process,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, both the people who design these complex systems, and the massive sets of data that are used, have many historical and human biases built in. Without very careful consideration, the algorithms they subsequently create can further perpetuate those very biases.”
Wyden and Booker have shown interest in the impact of bias on AI algorithms in the past; they introduced the Algorithmic Accountability Act back in April.