HomeMalware & ThreatsOptum offers financial aid to providers affected by outage

Optum offers financial aid to providers affected by outage

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Two weeks into the major cyberattack-induced outage at its Change Healthcare business, UnitedHealth Group is stepping up to provide short-term financial assistance to healthcare providers affected by the disruption in insurance payments. The company’s Optum Financial Services unit is offering temporary, interest-free, fee-free funding to certain provider organizations impacted by the outage.

UnitedHealth Group acknowledges the urgency of resuming payment operations and ensuring the flow of payments through the healthcare ecosystem. As efforts continue to restore standard payment operations, the financial aid provided will need to be repaid once normalcy is achieved. This initiative is aimed at supporting providers whose payment distribution by payers has been disrupted, rather than those with claims submission issues.

The program unveiled by UnitedHealth Group has drawn attention for its unique approach to addressing the fallout from the cyber incident. Attorney Rachel Rose noted that in similar cases she has been involved in, the focus was not on addressing claims submissions or anticipated funds. The affected parties were left to bridge the cash flow gap themselves. UnitedHealth’s proactive financial assistance program could help mitigate potential damages and legal challenges resulting from decreased revenues or other quantifiable losses.

Despite the positive intentions behind UnitedHealth’s aid program, not everyone is pleased with the offering. The American Hospital Association criticized the financial assistance, stating that it is only available to a very limited number of hospitals and health systems. The program, according to AHA, falls short of effectively addressing the significant funding gaps caused by the Change Healthcare outage. The lobby group pointed out that the program does not fully tackle the issues faced by providers in accurately and timely sending claims to payers.

UnitedHealth, the parent company of Change Healthcare, continues to work diligently on multiple approaches to restore the IT environment affected by the cyberattack. The company has implemented workarounds such as an online environment called e-prescribe to reduce the workload associated with pharmacy operations. However, more than 100 of Change Healthcare’s IT products remain offline, affecting various healthcare entities including hospitals, pharmacies, dental practices, and insurers.

The cyber incident orchestrated by BlackCat, a Russian-speaking ransomware group, has led to concerns about the security of patient, member, and customer information. UnitedHealth assured that the incident only involves Change Healthcare IT systems and has not impacted Optum, UnitedHealthcare, or UnitedHealth Group systems. Mandiant, Palo Alto Networks, Microsoft, and Amazon Web Services are actively engaged in the investigation and recovery efforts.

Pharmacies, particularly those in military settings, have been significantly impacted by the Change Healthcare outage. UnitedHealth is working closely with pharmacies to ensure they can still process claims and fill prescriptions for consumers during this period. Efforts are underway to bring back the online Change Healthcare pharmacy network in a separate environment to enable pharmacy claim submissions.

As the repercussions of the Change Healthcare cyberattack continue to unfold, attorney Peter Halprin emphasizes the importance of entities securing cyber insurance that covers revenue losses associated with service-provider outages. Cyber insurance can provide valuable protection against financial implications stemming from such attacks, particularly through comprehensive business interruption coverage.

In conclusion, UnitedHealth Group’s initiative to provide financial assistance to healthcare providers affected by the Change Healthcare outage is a significant step towards supporting the industry during this challenging time. While some criticisms have been raised about the scope and effectiveness of the program, it underscores the importance of proactive measures to mitigate the impact of cyber incidents on critical healthcare infrastructure.

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