A nagging pain in her abdomen sent Shanna Alvarado to a Kaiser hospital in Southern California in October 2010. An ultrasound showed the origins of that pain: a complex cyst that prompted worries about cancer. A radiologist at Kaiser noted in the hospital’s medical records that Shanna should follow up in six weeks, which is the standard protocol in such medical situations.
The hospital staff, however, never communicated any of these critical facts to Shanna and never followed up, despite having a report indicating Shanna would die if not treated. Two years later, Kaiser finally followed up with a second ultrasound and Shanna was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. She was given a year at most to live. Shanna is a mother and a homemaker, not a breadwinner. This means that MICRA’s arbitrary cap, put in place in 1975, values her life at only $250,000.