A widely used software program that helps guide care for millions of patients is flawed by unintentional racial bias that leads to blacks getting passed over for special care, according to a new study.

The software predicts costs rather than sickness. It is used by U.S. insurers and hospitals to direct higher-cost patients into health care programs designed to help them stay on medications or out of the hospital.

Whites tend to be higher-cost patients even when they’re not as sick as blacks. The study found the software regularly suggested letting healthier white patients into health care risk management programs ahead of blacks who were less healthy because those white patients were more costly.

FILE – In this Monday, Jan. 29, 2018 file photo, beds are set up inside a mobile emergency room outside a hospital in Georgia. According to a new study published in the journal Science on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, a widely used software program that helps guide care for millions of patients is flawed by unintentional racial bias. (AP Photo / David Goldman)

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