CMS to Conclude Accelerated Payments for Cyberattack-Affected Healthcare Providers

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

WASHINGTON, D.C. β€” The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that payments under the Accelerated and Advance Payment (AAP) Program for the Change Healthcare/Optum Payment Disruption (CHOPD) will end on July 12, 2024. This program, initiated in early March, aimed to alleviate cash flow issues faced by Medicare providers and suppliers following a major cyberattack that crippled Change Healthcare in February.

Background and Response

The cyberattack, one of the most significant on the U.S. healthcare system, forced Change Healthcare offline. This disruption hindered the electronic data interchange critical for healthcare operations. In response, CMS launched the CHOPD payments to ensure that hospitals, physicians, pharmacists, and other providers could maintain their services without financial interruption.

CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure commented on the swift actions taken. β€œIn the face of one of the most widespread cyberattacks on the U.S. health care industry, CMS promptly took action to get providers and suppliers access to the funds they needed to continue providing patients with vital care,” she said.

Financial Impact

The CHOPD program has issued accelerated payments to over 4,200 Part A providers, including hospitals, totaling more than $2.55 billion. Additionally, more than $717 million in advance payments were distributed to 4,722 Part B suppliers, encompassing doctors, non-physician practitioners, and suppliers of durable medical equipment.

These payments provided crucial support during a period of extreme uncertainty, allowing healthcare providers to continue their operations and serve patients effectively.

Recovery and Future Steps

To date, CMS has successfully recovered over 96% of the CHOPD payments. With the conclusion of the program on July 12, no new applications for accelerated or advance payments will be accepted. Providers experiencing billing or payment issues should contact Change Healthcare or their Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) for assistance.

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CMS will continue monitoring the long-term effects of the cyberattack and work with industry partners to resolve any lingering issues. The agency also stressed the importance of cybersecurity within the healthcare sector.

Lessons from a Recent Incident

This case highlights the vulnerabilities within the healthcare system to cyber threats. The swift response from CMS mitigated immediate financial disruptions, but the incident serves as a stark reminder of the need for robust cybersecurity measures.

Healthcare providers must prioritize cybersecurity to protect sensitive patient data and ensure continuous operation. CMS’s proactive measures facilitated a relatively smooth recovery process, demonstrating the importance of preparedness and quick intervention in crisis situations.

Strengthening Healthcare Cybersecurity Post-CHOPD Payments

The end of the CHOPD payments marks a significant milestone in the recovery from the February cyberattack. While the immediate financial issues have been addressed, the incident underscores ongoing risks to the healthcare infrastructure. As CMS closes this chapter, the focus shifts to strengthening cybersecurity to prevent future disruptions and protect the integrity of healthcare services.

Providers, suppliers, and technology vendors are urged to enhance their cybersecurity protocols. The healthcare ecosystem must remain vigilant and proactive to safeguard against potential threats.

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