US agency urges interim payments for healthcare providers hit by UnitedHealth hack

FILE PHOTO: The corporate logo of the UnitedHealth Group appears on the side of one of their office buildings in Santa Ana, California

(Reuters) -The U.S. government said on Friday it has urged states to make interim payments to healthcare providers that were hit by the cyberattack at UnitedHealth's unit Change Healthcare.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) new guidance allows states to start making interim payments retroactively to the date when claims payment processing was disrupted due to the cybersecurity incident, the federal health agency said.

CMS is reopening the system for some incentives given in cases of uncontrollable circumstances for healthcare providers affected by the hack.

The agency, earlier this month, said it will accelerate Medicare and Medicaid payments to some hospitals impacted by the cyberattack and encouraged Medicare Advantage plans to offer advance funding to the providers most affected.

The U.S. Department Of Health and Human Services has also opened an investigation into the cybersecurity incident, perpetrated by hackers who identified themselves as the "Blackcat" ransomware group, which disrupted claims processing across the United States.

UnitedHealth said last week it expects to restore disrupted services for medical claims and payments platforms by mid-March.

(Reporting by Leroy Leo and Mariam Sunny in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)