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Government pressures UnitedHealth to help providers after cyberattack

Officials are concerned that health care providers will struggle to make payroll and pay expenses after the attack on UnitedHealth affected payments.
Government pressures UnitedHealth to help providers after cyberattack
Posted at 9:11 AM, Mar 11, 2024

The Biden administration is pressuring UnitedHealth to speed up payments following a cyberattack that has disrupted payments to providers. 

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Change Healthcare, which UnitedHealth Group owns, processes 15 billion health care transactions annually, handling 1 in 3 health care transactions in the U.S. 

"The attack has impacted payments to hospitals, physicians, pharmacists, and other health care providers across the country. Many of these providers are concerned about their ability to offer care in the absence of timely payments, but providers persist despite the need for numerous onerous workarounds and cash flow uncertainty," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and acting Labor Secretary Julie A. Su wrote in a joint letter. 

UnitedHealth said it expects to begin testing and reestablish connectivity to its claims network and software on March 18, restoring service throughout next week. 

Payments started being disrupted last month, and officials released a notification that a cybersecurity incident was to blame. In the days following, a Temporary Funding Assistance Program was launched to bridge the gap in short-term cash flow for health care providers. 

“We are committed to providing relief for people affected by this malicious attack on the U.S. health system,” said Andrew Witty, CEO of UnitedHealth Group. “All of us at UnitedHealth Group feel a deep sense of responsibility for recovery and are working tirelessly to ensure that providers can care for their patients and run their practices, and that patients can get their medications. We’re determined to make this right as fast as possible.”

SEE MORE: UnitedHealth sets dates to restore hacked systems as fallout continues

Although prescriptions are continuing to be filled and health care services are still being provided, there are concerns that some providers will struggle to pay workers and afford their expenses as the disruption continues. 

The American Hospital Association said it welcomed the Biden administration's call for action. 

"It’s critical that all payers help providers during this incident to ensure patient care is not compromised," said Rick Pollack, American Hospital Association CEO. "That includes easing administrative burdens, pausing prior authorizations and requirements on timely billing, and providing advanced payments to hospitals and physicians, among other things, until this issue is fully resolved. 

"Just like the impacted providers, these payers are not responsible for the cyberattack; however, as hospitals and doctors have not wavered from their responsibility to care for their patients despite significant hardship, all payers must too honor their responsibility to support hospitals, physicians and patients for care delivered without delay."

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