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‘Only a matter of time’: Bill would assist healthcare providers during cyberattacks

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Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia introduced legislation last month that would allow for advance and accelerated payments to health care providers in the event of a cyber incident.

Warner, a member of the Senate Finance Committee and co-chair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, introduced the Health Care Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2024 for circumstances in which health are providers and their vendors meet minimum cybersecurity standards. The legislation follows a ransomware attack on Change Healthcare that paralyzed billing services for providers nationwide, leaving many in danger of becoming financially insolvent.

“I’ve been sounding the alarm about cybersecurity in the health care sector for some time. It was only a matter of time before we saw a major attack that disrupted the ability to care for patients nationwide,” Warner said. “The recent hack of Change Healthcare is a reminder that the entire health care industry is vulnerable and needs to step up its game. This legislation would provide some important financial incentives for providers and vendors to do so.”

In rare situations, Medicare Part A providers (such as acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and other inpatient care facilities) and Part B suppliers, including physicians, nonphysician practitioners, durable medical equipment suppliers, and others who furnish outpatient services, can face cash flow challenges due to specified circumstances beyond their control. Since the 1980s, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has provided temporary financial relief to participants in these programs through Accelerated and Advance Payment (AAP) programs, during which these providers and suppliers receive advance payments from the federal government that are later recovered by withholding payment for subsequent claims.

The Health Care Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2024 would modify the existing Medicare Hospital Accelerated Payment Program and the Medicare Part B Advance Payment Program by:

  • Requiring the Secretary to determine if the need for payments results from a cyber incident;
  • If it does, requiring the health care provider receiving the payment to meet minimum cybersecurity standards, as determined by the Secretary, to be eligible; and
  • If a provider’s intermediary was the target of the incident, the intermediary must also meet minimum cybersecurity standards, as determined by the Secretary, for the provider to receive the payments.

The provisions would go into effect two years from the date of enactment.  

Warner responds to ransomware group’s cyberattack on Change Healthcare – Augusta Free Press

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.