UnitedHealth Cyberattack Spotlights Vulnerabilities Of National Programs

A recent ransomware attack on a UnitedHealthGroup, the nation’s largest healthcare insurer, has thrust the vulnerabilities of having a consolidated national healthcare program into the spotlight.

Axios reported that the cyberattack, known as the “Change Healthcare cyberattack,” compromised UnitedHeathGroup’s ability to make payments to hospitals, pharmacies, doctors and medical equipment vendors.

The outlet added that the hack impacted “roughly half of U.S. health care” providers and revealed how an attack on a monopoly or primary service provider could have a profound national impact.

The Federalists reported that the hack has caused “chaos” across the healthcare sector and that the collective financial impact on providers and suppliers is a staggering $1 billion daily.

Moody’s, a well-respected credit rating system, warned: “Even large providers with thin margins and weak liquidity are not immune to challenges and will eventually face liquidity hurdles if the disruption lingers.” Some providers have reported dips in stock value as, among other factors, the payment system issue remains unresolved.

The financial and service impact of the UnitedHealthGroup cyberattack, which processes medical claims for approximately 10% of Americans, illustrates how having one system compromised can have a profound domino effect.

This issue is problematic for the president’s campaign leaders as Biden has often spoken of the benefits and needs of reviving a national, Obamacare-type program. Last month, Biden and former President Obama released a commercial promoting the need to expand Obamacare.

KFF Health News reported that the cyberattack caused a “crisis” against which there is no solid firewall to guard against future attacks. Noting the domino effect of the recent cyber attack, Saad Chaudhry, chief digital and information officer at Luminis Health, told KFF Health News: “It’s a small ripple [that] will get bigger and bigger over time.”

The concern was echoed in the American Hospital Association’s statement that “many members aren’t getting paid and that doctors can’t check whether patients have coverage for care.”

In addition to the financial impact, there are concerns the hack compromised the records of 208 million individuals.

A UnitedHealth Group press release quoted CEO Andrew Witty as saying, “We are committed to providing relief for people affected by this malicious attack on the U.S. health system.”

Witty added: “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.”