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Cyberattack: ‘This just might be the final straw’

Cyberattack: ‘This just might be the final straw’

newspollYARMOUTH, Maine – The cyberattack on Change Healthcare has “crippled operations” for HME providers, according to the results of a recent HME Newspoll.  

More than 95% of respondents to the poll reported that their cash flow has been impacted by a Feb. 21 cyberattack, which caused Change Healthcare to take its systems offline, affecting their ability to process claims

“This has not just affected our company, but nearly crippled operations,” wrote Kristen Turner of Sleep Therapy Solutions in Hudson, Ohio. “No cash flow during (a time of) already low incoming flow due to annual deductible season has made us consider closing our doors. We have been open for 17 years and have watched and experienced the ongoing deterioration of the industry to include competitive bidding, constant reduction in reimbursement, COVID, difficulty finding staff, etc. This cyberattack just might be the final straw.”  

The majority of respondents – nearly 29% – reported that their cash flow has been reduced by more than 75%. 

Even as Change Healthcare expected to begin testing and reestablishing connectivity to its claims network and software on March 18 and to make available its electronic payment functionality on March 15, the impact of the outage will drag on, respondents reported. 

“We were unable to submit claims for two weeks other than manually through payer portals,” wrote Jim Lehan of Lehan Drugs in DeKalb, Ill. “We will feel this cash crunch over the next few weeks, as our reimbursement has dried up.” 

In the wake of the outage, CMS has offered up flexibilities and advance payments to Part B providers, but it may not be enough – or soon enough, respondents reported. 

“This ransomware attack has really affected a lot of providers, and some aren’t even aware this has affected them until it’s too late,” wrote Victoria Peterson of the Texas Medical Equipment Providers (TexMEP) association. “Unfortunately, we’re not seeing much being done on the government side to help providers who are in dire straits or soon will be. I’m worried for small providers without cash reserves and with unequal access to credit.” 

Cash reserves and credit, as well as a diversified business model, will be key to weathering the outage, one respondent reported. 

“None of our DME claims, except FFS Medicare Part B, are going through,” wrote Ryan French of Jim’s Pharmacy in Port Angeles, Wash. “Luckily, we have prepared for the ‘DIR hangover’ this year with cash reserves and a line of credit, and our pharmacy software vendor found an alternate switch quickly. But Brightree has been very slow to react. I don’t see how a DME-only business could survive this.”


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