Change Healthcare's temporary funding program 'not even a Band-Aid,' AHA says

The American Hospital Association called Change Healthcare's temporary funding program for providers affected by the cyberattack on the UnitedHealth Group subsidiary inadequate, while a U.S. Senate leader asked CMS to speed up payments to hospitals.

Change Healthcare set up the funding assistance March 1 for providers facing cash-flow issues after losing access to its payer systems, which have been down since the Feb. 21 ransomware attack. However, AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack wrote in a March 4 letter to UnitedHealth Group that the program is "not even a Band-Aid on the payment problems you identify."

He said the assistance is available to an "exceedingly small" number of hospitals and health systems, while the terms and conditions are "shockingly onerous."

"Taken together, the limited eligibility and these one-sided contractual terms severely undermine the intent of this program," Mr. Pollack wrote. "Indeed, we have heard from some hospitals and health systems that these simply are not terms they can accept, especially when their financial future becomes more unpredictable the longer Change Healthcare is unavailable."

Change Healthcare did not immediately respond to a request from Becker's for comment. The company said March 1 that the funding comes with no fees, interest or other "associated costs." "Once standard payment operations resume, the funds will simply need to be repaid," Change Healthcare wrote. "We understand the urgency of resuming payment operations and continuing the flow of payments through the healthcare ecosystem."

Separately, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote March 1 to CMS asking the agency to make accelerated and advanced payments available to hospitals, pharmacies and other providers affected by the cyberattack and to direct Medicare Administrative Contractors to streamline claims processing and payments.

"Hospitals are struggling to process claims, bill patients, and receive electronic payments, leaving them financially vulnerable," Mr. Schumer wrote. "Many hospitals are approaching a financial cliff where they will no longer be able to rely on their cash on hand. The longer this disruption persists, the more difficult it will be for hospitals to continue to provide comprehensive healthcare services to patients."

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