Hackers target Change Healthcare, which handles 15 BILLION health records annually
03/12/2024 // Ethan Huff // Views

The federal government is freaking out after hackers broke into a major corporate service that processes some 15 billion health-related transactions every single year.

The incident occurred at Change Healthcare, a property of UnitedHealth Group, and resulted in United States health officials urging all insurance companies across the nation to take immediate action to prevent a "digital logjam," as one media outlet put it.

That request involved the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) calling on American insurers to waive prior authorizations and Medicare's contractors to accept paper bills from doctors and hospitals.

"These temporary measures aim to address administrative problems that have emerged from the data hack of an influential company owned by UnitedHealth Group," reports indicated.

The hack occurred on February 21 against the digital "clearinghouse," which connects doctors, hospitals and other health providers directly to insurance companies so they can pay for medical care and authorize medical services. Ever since the hack, many doctors and hospitals have been unable to bill for services rendered, and some patients have had trouble picking up their prescriptions.

UnitedHealth Group is blaming a ransomware group called ALPHV, or Blackcat, for the attack, which HHS says it is doing everything in its power to overcome so the U.S. health care system can resume business as usual.

(Related: Another potential target of hackers is medical devices.)

Paper works better than computers during a cyberattack

To speed up the process of recovery, HHS is calling on Medicare health plans to remove or relax their requirements that patients or doctors obtain prior authorization before undergoing a medical test or procedure.

"Insurers have also been asked to halt 'timely filing' rules that address when health providers must submit payment claims," reports explain. "Private Medicare plans also should offer 'advance funding' to medical providers impacted by the data hack."

HHS is also asking private contractors who serve Medicare to accept paper claims, something they did not previously do in favor of electronic claims. Whenever there are cyberattack disruptions such as this, it becomes apparent why paper is often the better and safer route to take for smooth operations.

Hospitals that currently face "significant cash flow problems" are also being encouraged by HHS to ask for accelerated payments from Medicare contractors. These same hospitals are also being advised to switch to a different payment clearinghouse and to contact a private Medicare contractor in their specific region.

These new HHS guidelines post-cyberattack came just one day after the American Medical Association (AMA) asked the Biden regime to provide emergency financial relief to all doctors affected by the incident.

AMA President Jesse M. Ehrenfeld thanked HHS for providing a "welcome first step," but demanded even more emergency compensation based on the recognition "that physicians are experiencing financial struggles that threaten the viability of many medical practices."

The American Hospital Association (AHA) was even more triggered by the HHS plan, claiming it does not go far enough and only offers "one-sided contractual terms" and limited eligibility.

Shockingly, about one-third of all Americans were affected by health-related data breaches in 2023. In recent years, health-related cyberattacks have increased dramatically, usually by overseas hackers who target health providers and the vendors and companies that serve them.

"Most of the largest hacks have targeted vendors who bill, mail or provide other services for hospitals, doctors and other health providers," one media outlet reported.

In 2023 alone, some 133 million health records were affected by these data breaches. That same year, there was an average of two health data hacks or thefts per 500 records, illustrating just how out-of-control the situation has become.

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