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White House Officials Urge UnitedHealth to Expedite Payments to Healthcare Providers

Written by : Nikita Saha

March 13, 2024

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They urged UnitedHealth to assume responsibility to ensure that no provider faces compromised cash flow challenges resulting from the cyberattack on Change Healthcare.

In response to one of the most severe cyber attacks in the US healthcare sector, White House officials have now asked UnitedHealth Group to expedite payments to healthcare providers in an open letter.

The officials urged UnitedHealth to assume responsibility to ensure that no provider faces compromised cash flow challenges resulting from the cyberattack on Change Healthcare.

While the letter specifically singled out UnitedHealth and addressed the recent breach, it also implored other companies within the industry to lend their assistance.

"We call on UHG, other insurance companies, clearinghouses, and health care entities to take additional actions to mitigate the harms this attack places on patients and providers, particularly our safety net providers,’’ the open letter noted.

According to Mike Tuffin, CEO, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), an industry group representing insurers, highlighted that health insurance plans actively support providers by enabling them to resume claims submissions and receive payments following the cyberattack.

“Health plans have also put alternative payment processes in place”, he added.

Addressing the Matter

In light of this development, the White House officials convened a meeting with UnitedHealth Group CEO Andrew Witty and other industry stakeholders.

This meeting addressed the cyberattack targeting the healthcare conglomerate's technological infrastructure, which led to substantial operational disruptions across the nation.

According to a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), this meeting was the first time that both providers and payers came together to discuss the situation.

Reportedly, since the cyberattack, daily individual meetings have also been held with all involved parties to address the ongoing impact and find solutions.

Revisiting the Catastrophic Cyberattack

One of the leading healthcare companies in the US, Change Healthcare which processes about 50% of medical claims in the country was targeted in a cyberattack last month.

The assailants, identified as the "BlackCat" ransomware group, have triggered ripple effects across the US healthcare system.

Multiple reports cited that a substantial $22 million payment in Bitcoins was deposited in a cryptocurrency wallet linked to BlackCat. However, both UnitedHealthcare and BlackCat refrained from commenting on this matter.

Change Healthcare, acting as a financial clearing house for pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), plays a pivotal role in facilitating insurance transactions and medication reimbursements.

Consequently, disruptions stemming from the attack have affected crucial processes such as electronic pharmacy refills and insurance transactions.

In response, UnitedHealth has committed to restoring disrupted services for medical claims and payment platforms by mid-March.

Despite the challenges posed by the cyber intrusion, Change Healthcare remains focused on investigating and restoring its services, as confirmed in its response to media inquiries.

Cyber Security Threat Grappling Healthcare

In December, Corewell Health, a health system in the USA's Michigan reported its second cybersecurity breach this year, impacting more than one million patients. This is the second time in a year that Corewell Health patients had their medical information exposed in a data breach.

This incident is the latest in a series of cyberware attacks and data breaches affecting health systems across the US.

Other recent breaches include those at Integris Health in Oklahoma, Capital Health in New Jersey, and hospitals run by Ardent Health Services. These breaches highlight the growing concern over cybersecurity in the healthcare sector.

Cybersecurity is increasingly becoming a pressing issue in India as well. With prominent healthcare institutions such as AIIMS New Delhi and ICMR being targeted by cyber threats on multiple occasions, it underscores the urgent need for healthcare organizations worldwide to implement rigorous security protocols to protect patient data and ensure their safety.


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