Change attack update: UnitedHealth launching medical claims solution 

UnitedHealth Group has advanced more than $2 billion to providers and is launching software for medical claims preparation beginning March 18 following the cyberattack on its Change Healthcare subsidiary in late February. 

The software will be made available to thousands of providers in the next several days, with "third-party attestations available prior to services becoming operational. Following this initial phase, remaining services restoration will continue through ongoing phases of activation until all customers have been connected."

"We continue to make significant progress in restoring the services impacted by this cyberattack," UnitedHealth CEO Andrew Witty said in a news release. "We know this has been an enormous challenge for health care providers and we encourage any in need to contact us."

As of March 7, the company has restored 99% of pharmacy network services. Change's electronic payments platform was restored March 15, with payer implementations currently underway.

The cyberattack has been called the most significant and consequential in American history,  crippling financial operations for hospitals, insurers, pharmacies and medical groups nationwide. An AHA survey of nearly 1,000 hospitals conducted between March 9 and 12 found that 94% of hospitals have felt financial impact from the attack, and more than half have reported a "significant or serious" impact. Seventy-four percent of hospitals reported a direct effect on patient care.

Provider claims to payers have dropped by more than one-third, according to an analysis of 1,850 hospitals and 250,000 physicians nationwide by Kodiak Solutions. Through March 9, the total estimated cash flow impact for hospitals reporting data to Kodiak is $6.3 billion in delayed payments.

HHS previously called on UnitedHealth to "take responsibility to ensure no provider is compromised by their cash flow challenges" and to expedite the delivery of payments. For all payers, HHS has asked that interim payments be made to affected providers and that prior authorization and other utilization management requirements be put on hold temporarily. The federal government has also accelerated payments to hospitals and physicians.

On March 12, AHIP President and CEO Mike Tuffin said suspending prior authorization requirements could do more harm than good and that individual plans and providers are in the best position to assess how to maintain appropriate payments in a timely manner. According to Bloomberg, a main concern among payers around advanced funding is how money will be recuperated in the future. Federal health officials are expected to meet with insurance industry representatives March 18. 

Until March 31, UnitedHealth has suspended Medicare Advantage and D-SNP prior authorizations for most outpatient services, and utilization review of inpatient admissions. No other large insurers have made the decision to relax prior authorizations enterprise-wide. The federal government has also launched an investigation into UnitedHealth over the cyberattack within the context of HIPAA compliance.

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