Buchanan leads call for HHS to protect patients impacted by healthcare cyberattack

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) led 19 fellow Republicans in calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure support and protection for patients affected by a recent cyberattack on Change Healthcare. 

“I am extremely concerned about the status of the investigation by HHS into the devastating cyberattack on Change Healthcare,” Rep. Buchanan said in a March 21 statement. “The administration needs to focus their attention on patients first and foremost to make sure they are still able to receive access to timely, quality care while ensuring their private and sensitive healthcare information is protected.”

Discovered on Feb. 21, the cyberattack impacted stakeholders throughout the nation’s healthcare ecosystem, “including the most important stakeholders of all: patients,” wrote Rep. Buchanan and his colleagues in a March 21 letter sent to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Among the members who joined Rep. Buchanan in signing the letter were U.S. Reps. Adrian Smith (R-NE), Darin LaHood (R-IL), Blake Moore (R-UT), Carol Miller (R-WV), Ron Estes (R-KS), Mike Carey (R-OH), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).  

The lawmakers noted that during a recent U.S. House Ways and Means Committee hearing with Becerra, the secretary failed to detail how the Biden administration is prioritizing patients in the wake of the attack, and they called on HHS to put patients first, while ensuring their data is protected from such attacks.

“While we appreciate that the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently opened an investigation into the cyberattack on Change Healthcare (and its parent company, UnitedHealth Group), we remain concerned that patients are not the primary focus of this investigation,” they wrote. “Not only are providers losing up to a billion dollars a day in payment delays — potentially leading to delayed or deferred care for patients — the lack of transparency for patients regarding the status of their protected health information poses an active threat to patient well-being.”

With much information still unknown about the stolen patient data, Rep. Buchanan and his colleagues wrote that OCR should be focused on partnering with the private sector and other governmental entities to ensure that bad actors don’t have access to private medical data to manipulate or extort innocent patients.

The lawmakers asked Becerra to answer several questions about HHS’s related efforts and submit them to the Republican members of the Ways and Means Committee no later than March 31.