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White House Wants UnitedHealth to Expedite Payments Following Hack

The White House wants UnitedHealth Group to speed payments to healthcare providers following a recent cyberattack.

In an open letter published Sunday (March 10), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor urged UnitedHealth to take steps to help providers in the wake of last month’s attack on the company’s Change Healthcare business.

Those measures include ensuring “expedited delivery of funds to impacted providers for all receiving advance payment” from UnitedHealthcare and communicating “more frequently and more transparently, both within the health care community and with state Medicaid agencies.”

The letter also urged insurers to make interim payments to affected providers, noting that larger payers have the balance sheets stable enough to advance payments.

“While we believe payers have a unique responsibility and opportunity to address the challenge before us, we urge action on the part of any health care entity that can step up,” the letter said.

“For example, we appreciate the actions taken by clearinghouses to enable switching from Change Healthcare systems, and we encourage them to offer easy-to-implement, standard terms for additional providers who want to switch, and avoid cost-prohibitive pricing.”

Late last month, UnitedHealth confirmed that its subsidiary Optum was forced to shut down IT systems and various services after a cyberattack on the Optum-run Change Healthcare platform, the largest payment exchange platform between doctors, pharmacies, healthcare providers, and patients in the American healthcare system.

The attack spilled over to the larger healthcare system, with services not expected to be fully restored until the middle of the month.

Last week saw reports that an online forum popular with cybercriminals claimed that UnitedHealth Group paid $22 million to the Blackcat ransomware group to recover Change Healthcare’s compromised data and systems.

“The breach comes at a critical juncture in digital healthcare’s transformation,” PYMNTS wrote in the wake of the attack last month. 

PYMNTS data shows that consumer interest in using a unified digital platform for managing healthcare information and medical insurance benefits is well established among all age groups, with two-thirds of baby boomers and seniors expressing interest in unified healthcare platforms, with 24% very or extremely interested.

On the provider side, there has been a renewed focus on digital transformation, with one analyst saying that “a powerful wave of modernization” is transforming the sector.