HHS requests 'stopgap' payments to hospitals, pause on prior authorizations amid Change outage

The cyberattack disrupting Change Healthcare's claims processing system has had a financial impact on hospitals and forced many to develop workarounds for claims submissions.

While UnitedHealth Group, Change's parent company, estimates systems will be back online by March 18, the Biden-Harris administration is calling on insurance companies to take actions that will mitigate further financial distress for hospitals.

Xavier Becerra, secretary of HHS, and Julie Su, acting secretary of the Labor Department, penned a March 10 letter to healthcare leaders asking private insurance companies to make interim payments as a "stopgap" until Change's systems are restored. The letter also requests insurance companies to simplify electronic data interchange requirements and pause prior authorizations.

"In a situation such as this, the government and private sector must work together to help providers make payroll and deliver timely care to the American people," Mr. Becerra and Ms. Su wrote. "The Biden-Harris administration has taken action by removing challenges for healthcare providers and addressing this cyberattack head on. Now, we are asking private sector leaders across the healthcare industry — especially other payers — to meet the moment."

CMS announced March 9 it would accelerate payments to Part A providers and Part B suppliers. It previously encouraged Medicare Advantage and Part D organizations to follow suit.

The administration also made requests of UnitedHealth specifically, asking the company to make sure providers with existing cash flow issues are not "compromised" because of the attack. Moody's released a March 8 report stating the attack likely will affect hospital credit ratings, and some hospitals risk running out of cash if the outages continue. The letter also asks for more communication from UnitedHealth and to provide Medicaid agencies a list of affected providers in each state.

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