US to stop advance payments for Medicare providers hit by Change hack


(Reuters) -The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said on Monday it plans to close the advance payments program it started to help some Medicare providers and suppliers affected by disruptions at UnitedHealth’s Change Healthcare technology unit.

It launched the payments program in March after a hack at Change Healthcare on Feb. 21 by a group called ALPHV, also known as “BlackCat”, disrupted medical insurance payments across the United States.

CMS plans to close the program on July 12. It said it will not accept new applications for Change Healthcare/Optum Payment Disruption accelerated or advance payments after that date.

The program has issued accelerated payments totaling more than $2.55 billion to over 4,200 providers, including hospitals, CMS said.

It also made 4,722 advance payments, totaling more than $717.18 million, to suppliers including doctors, non-physician practitioners and durable medical equipment suppliers.

CMS said it has already recovered over 96% of these payments to date and suppliers and service providers are now successfully billing Medicare.

Any Medicare providers or suppliers experiencing billing or payment difficulties must contact Change, it said, adding that it would continue to monitor the fallout of the cyberattack.

Change Healthcare processes about 50% of medical claims in the U.S. for around 900,000 physicians, 33,000 pharmacies, 5,500 hospitals and 600 laboratories.

In May, UnitedHealth CEO Andrew Witty said the hackers potentially stole data belonging to a third of Americans.

UnitedHealth has issued $6.5 billion in accelerated payments and loans to providers including hospitals since the February attack.

(Reporting by Leroy Leo and Puyaan Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shilpi Majumdar and Pooja Desai)

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