Burgess, colleagues urge protective actions after Change Healthcare ransomware attack

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) must hold those responsible for the Change Healthcare ransomware attack and protect other industry stakeholders, say U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) and his colleagues.

“The result of the breach has far-reaching implications for providers, patients, health systems, health plans, and vendors,” wrote Rep. Burgess and members of the GOP Doctors Caucus in a March 21 letter sent to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “This situation sets a dangerous precedent for potential impacts moving forward if our health systems are not adequately protected.”

The lawmakers requested that CMS also address vulnerabilities revealed by the recent breach and ensure America’s healthcare providers receive support and information in an efficient manner.

UnitedHealth Group and its division, Optum Inc., on Feb. 21 reported that their subsidiary, Change Healthcare, had fallen victim to a ransomware cyberattack that caused outages in systems used for medical billing and insurance claims.

Rep. Burgess and his colleagues acknowledged that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CMS have released multiple statements recognizing the disruption and indicating they would work with the Medicare Administrative Contractors and insurers to provide resources and administrative flexibility for providers.

“We urge immediate action to ensure all, not just some, providers are getting the resources and information they need,” wrote the lawmakers.

Additionally, CMS should use its existing authority to ensure timely resolution by ensuring physicians have the information and resources they need and communicating with affected payers to accomplish that goal. 

“Our healthcare system is and will remain a critical infrastructure, and the risks of cybersecurity attacks are a domestic and international threat to the ecosystem at large,” the members wrote. “It is critical that Change Healthcare operations are reestablished safely as soon as possible, and CMS should work to communicate with providers and inform them of the resources available to them.”

The 14 Republicans who joined Rep. Burgess in signing the letter included U.S. Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Buddy Carter (R-GA), John Joyce (R-PA), and Larry Bucshon (R-IN).