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US will speed some payments to hospitals following UnitedHealth hack

UnitedHealth Group's headquarters building is seen in Minnetonka, Minnesota, U.S. in this handout photo taken in 2019.

NEW YORK, March 5 (mod1s) - The U.S. government said on Tuesday that it may speed Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to select hospitals damaged by the cyberattack at UnitedHealth's (UNH.N), opens new tab technology unit Change Healthcare. 

Still, U.S. doctors' group the American Medical Association (AMA) said the support did not go far enough to protect individual physician practices and urged the Biden administration "to go above and beyond what has been put in place and include financial assistance such as advanced payments for physicians."

The AMA, the American Hospital Association and other groups had called on the Department of Health and Human Services to make more widespread accelerated payments available - like those issued during the COVID pandemic - amid cash flow concerns caused by an inability to submit claims and receive payments. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a subsidiary of the HHS, stated hospitals may submit expedited payment requests to the contractors that administer their payments for individual consideration.

CMS also pushed Medicare Advantage plans to grant advance reimbursement to providers most impacted by the incident at Change and requested contractors to ease different standards for compliance with Medicare laws. 

American Hospital Association CEO Richard Pollack stated in a letter, opens new tab issued on Monday that a temporary assistance program put in place by UnitedHealth last week was "not even a band-aid" on the payment issues created by the breach, and termed the rules of the program "shockingly onerous."

UnitedHealth did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment on the letter from AHA.

The Change breach was done by hackers who described themselves as the "Blackcat" ransomware organization. 

Change said last week it has activated a fresh version of its ePrescribing service for all its clients, more than a week after it announced the intrusion that had a knock-on impact on players throughout the U.S. healthcare system. Parent firm UnitedHealth has launched a scheme to give short-term money for providers unable to obtain reimbursement due of the attack.

The CMS requested private providers that offer insurance to older individuals via Medicare Advantage plans to eliminate or ease prior authorization processes during the system disruptions. It also advised government-supported children's insurance and corporations that supply Medicaid coverage for low-income individuals to do the same. 

The AHA also wrote to legislative lawmakers, opens new tab on Monday to seek aid for hospitals struggling with hack-related difficulties.


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