HHS Statement Regarding the Cyberattack on Change Healthcare

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is aware that Change Healthcare – a unit of UnitedHealth Group (UHG) – was impacted by a cybersecurity incident in late February. HHS recognizes the impact this attack has had on health care operations across the country. HHS’ first priority is to help coordinate efforts to avoid disruptions to care throughout the health care system.

HHS is in regular contact with UHG leadership, state partners, and with numerous external stakeholders to better understand the nature of the impacts and to ensure the effectiveness of UHG’s response. HHS has made clear its expectation that UHG does everything in its power to ensure continuity of operations for all health care providers impacted and HHS appreciates UHG’s continuous efforts to do so. HHS is also leading interagency coordination of the Federal government’s related activities, including working closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the White House, and other agencies to provide credible, actionable threat intelligence to industry wherever possible.

HHS refers directly to UHG for updates on their incident response progress and recovery planning. However, numerous hospitals, doctors, pharmacies and other stakeholders have highlighted potential cash flow concerns to HHS stemming from an inability to submit claims and receive payments. HHS has heard these concerns and is taking direct action and working to support the important needs of the health care community.

Today, HHS is announcing immediate steps that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is taking to assist providers to continue to serve patients. CMS will continue to communicate with the health care community and assist, as appropriate. Providers should continue to work with all their payers for the latest updates on how to receive timely payments.

Affected parties should be aware of the following flexibilities in place:

  • Medicare providers needing to change clearinghouses that they use for claims processing during these outages should contact their Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) to request a new electronic data interchange (EDI) enrollment for the switch. The MAC will provide instructions based on the specific request to expedite the new EDI enrollment. CMS has instructed the MACs to expedite this process and move all provider and facility requests into production and ready to bill claims quickly. CMS is strongly encouraging other payers, including state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) agencies and Medicaid and CHIP managed care plans, to waive or expedite solutions for this requirement.
  • CMS will issue guidance to Medicare Advantage (MA) organizations and Part D sponsors encouraging them to remove or relax prior authorization, other utilization management, and timely filing requirements during these system outages. CMS is also encouraging MA plans to offer advance funding to providers most affected by this cyberattack.
  • CMS strongly encourages Medicaid and CHIP managed care plans to adopt the same strategies of removing or relaxing prior authorization and utilization management requirements, and consider offering advance funding to providers, on behalf of Medicaid and CHIP managed care enrollees to the extent permitted by the State. 
  • If Medicare providers are having trouble filing claims or other necessary notices or other submissions, they should contact their MAC for details on exceptions, waivers, or extensions, or contact CMS regarding quality reporting programs.
  • CMS has contacted all of the MACs to make sure they are prepared to accept paper claims from providers who need to file them. While we recognize that electronic billing is preferable for everyone, the MACs must accept paper submissions if a provider needs to file claims in that method.

CMS has also heard from providers about the availability of accelerated payments, like those issued during the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand that many payers are making funds available while billing systems are offline, and providers should take advantage of those opportunities. However, CMS recognizes that hospitals may face significant cash flow problems from the unusual circumstances impacting hospitals’ operations, and – during outages arising from this event – facilities may submit accelerated payment requests to their respective servicing MACs for individual consideration. We are working to provide additional information to the MACs about the specific items and information a provider’s request should contain. Specific information will be available from the MACs later this week.

This incident is a reminder of the interconnectedness of the domestic health care ecosystem and of the urgency of strengthening cybersecurity resiliency across the ecosystem. That’s why, in December 2023, HHS released a concept paper that outlines the Department’s cybersecurity strategy for the sector. The concept paper builds on the National Cybersecurity Strategy that President Biden released last year, focusing specifically on strengthening resilience for hospitals, patients, and communities threatened by cyber-attacks. The paper details four pillars for action, including publishing new voluntary health care-specific cybersecurity performance goals, working with Congress to develop supports and incentives for domestic hospitals to improve cybersecurity, increasing accountability within the health care sector, and enhancing coordination through a one-stop shop.

HHS will continue to communicate with the health care sector and encourage continued dialogue among affected parties. We will continue to communicate with UHG, closely monitor their ongoing response to this cyberattack, and promote transparent, robust response while working with the industry to close any gaps that remain.

HHS also takes this opportunity to encourage all providers, technology vendors, and members of the health care ecosystem to double down on cybersecurity, with urgency. The system and the American people can ill afford further disruptions in care. Please visit the HPH Cyber Performance Goals website for more details on steps to stay protected.

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