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On March 10, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a letter to the entire healthcare industry regarding the massive cyberattack on UnitedHealth Group’s (UHG) Change Healthcare unit, which started on February 21. Change processes 15 billion healthcare transactions annually and has a connection to 1 in every 3 patient records, according to HHS. Its system is a clearing house for a number of critical services, such as revenue cycle, pharmacy, and clinical authorizations. The attack has caused a catastrophic system outage. Millions of patients are unable to access prescription medications and care—unless they want to pay out of pocket without insurance. A large portion of the nation’s providers are unable to file claims and receive reimbursement because Change is the source of the necessary claims information for insurers. At one point, UHG began offering loans to providers, which many characterized as an option that would likely make a bad situation worse because of the terms of the loans. In its letter, HHS called on UHG to “Take responsibility to ensure no provider is compromised by their cash flow challenges stemming from this cyberattack on Change Healthcare.” Federal officials have plans to distribute emergency funds to providers facing cash flow issues. Change Healthcare opened a temporary version of its e-prescribing service on March 8, and according to the American Medical Association (AMA), testing of the Change Healthcare claims-processing system is not set to begin until March 18. The AMA also has a website page dedicated to daily updates.

Chaos across the industry: As the effects ripple across the industry, providers are facing tough financial choices. Pocono Urgent Care Centers has announced it will be closing operations after 13 years, specifically because of the Change Healthcare situation.  According to a report from Axios, providers are losing as much as $1 billion a day in the fallout from the system outage. The Urgent Care Association sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, urging officials to make advanced payments available to all centers impacted by the Change Healthcare cyberattack immediately.

Providers Remain Empty-Handed While Change Recovers From Cyberattack