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Monday, July 15, 2024

UnitedHealth CEO Meets White House Officials After ‘Biggest Cyber Attack On US Health Care System’

Following a devastating cyberattack on the nation’s largest health insurers that sparked chaos across the entire healthcare payments system, the CEO of UnitedHealth Group and other industry leaders met with White House officials on Tuesday. Simultaneously, the Department of Health and Human Services has opened up an investigation into the incident. 

The cyberattack against UnitedHealth and its subsidiary Change Healthcare was first detected on Feb. 21. According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, this forced UnitedHealth to sever some of Change Healthcare’s digital payment networks from its clients. Another filing said the company is working to restore payment systems this week. 

Bloomberg said that “halting the normal flow of billions of dollars in payments between doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and insurers” triggered a “paralysis” across the industry as some healthcare clinics were thrown into “financial peril” in recent weeks. 

“I can’t believe we’re in this mess,” said Kathy Oubre, chief executive officer of Pontchartrain Cancer Center in southeast Louisiana, adding, “It’s going to take us months to dig out.”

The extent of the cyberattack is still unknown. However, UnitedHealth told Forbes it’s working with local and federal officials to figure that out. UnitedHealth has named BlackCat, also known as ALPHV and Noberus, as the ransomware group behind the attack. The group reportedly posted on the dark web, claiming it had accessed “more than 6 TB of highly selective data, ” including medical and dental records and payment information.

On Tuesday, UnitedHealth CEO Andrew Witty and other industry leaders met with White House officials to discuss the ransomware attack. The magnitude of the attack is realized when understanding that Change Healthcare processes 33% of medical payments in the US, hence why the federal government is extremely worried. 

The US Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday that it has launched an investigation into the attack:

“Given the unprecedented magnitude of this cyberattack, and in the best interest of patients and health care providers, OCR is initiating an investigation into this incident.” 

The statement continued:

“Ransomware and hacking are the primary cyber-threats in health care. Over the past five years, there has been a 256% increase in large breaches reported to OCR involving hacking and a 264% increase in ransomware… The large breaches reported in 2023 affected over 134 million individuals, a 141% increase from 2022.”

Dr. Celine Gounder, an editor-at-large for public health at KFF Health News, called the incident “the biggest ever cybersecurity attack on the American health care system ever.” 

“This is a system, Change Healthcare, that processes medical payments and touches one out of every three patients in this country. So the magnitude of the scope of this attack is really quite large,” Gounder said. 

UnitedHealth’s market capitalization has lost about 39 billion dollars since the attack was first reported late last month. Its current market cap stands at around 449 billion dollars. 

“We are committed to providing relief for people affected by this malicious attack on the US health system,” UnitedHealth CEO Andrew Witty said in the update.

Witty continued, “All of us at UnitedHealth Group feel a deep sense of responsibility for recovery and are working tirelessly to ensure that providers can care for their patients and run their practices, and that patients can get their medications. We’re determined to make this right as fast as possible.”

And according to Axios, cybersecurity experts say UnitedHealth’s merger and acquisition spree is the reason to blame for the security breach. 

This post was originally published on this site

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