AMA survey finds cyberattack continues to threaten the viability of physician practices

April 12, 2024
Area(s) of Interest: Cyber Security 

Small practices hit particularly hard by the fallout; temporary funding assistance still available

On Feb. 21, 2024, Change Healthcare, a subsidiary of the UnitedHealth Group Optum unit, experienced a cyber-attack that resulted in nationwide outages affecting payors, physician practices and other providers and pharmacies.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has released informal survey findings showing the ongoing, devastating impact of the Change Healthcare cyberattack, which continues to threaten the viability of physician practices across the country, having serious implications for patient care. Practices of 10 physicians or less appear to be particularly hard hit. Despite United Health Group’s assurances that claims would be flowing by March 23, serious disruptions continue. 

Reminder: Temporary funding assistance available

While some respondents did report taking advantage of advance payments, temporary funding assistance, and loans, many remain unaware of the financial assistance available to them.

Assistance is available in the form of advance payments from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and short-term, no-cost loans from the Optum Temporary Funding Assistance Program. If utilizing the Optum “check funding eligibility” and you are not seeing the necessary amounts to cover what is needed, practices can submit a request through the “temporary funding assistance inquiry form” or call Optum at (877) 702-3253.

Impacts and workarounds

The California Medical Association (CMA) is committed to supporting physician practices during this difficult time. We have developed a grid that lists a summary of known impacts, workarounds, and guidance from payors, which is available free to CMA members. CMA members can reach out to us at (800) 786-4262 or economicservices@cmadocs.org

More on the survey

According to the survey, which was conducted from March 26 to April 3, restricted functionality since the cyberattack has resulted in: 36% of respondents reporting suspension in claim payments; 32% being unable to submit claims; and 22% being unable to verify eligibility for benefits.

Additionally, 80% of those surveyed reported lost revenue from unpaid claims; 85% have had to commit additional staff time and resources to complete revenue cycle tasks; and 51% have lost revenue from the inability to charge patient co-pays or remaining obligations. The result is that 55% of respondents had to use personal funds to cover practice expenses, 44% were unable to purchase supplies, and 31% were unable to make payroll.

“The disruption caused by this cyber-attack is causing tremendous financial strain,” said AMA President Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, M.D., MPH. “These survey data show, in stark terms, that practices will close because of this incident, and patients will lose access to their physicians. The one-two punch of compounding Medicare cuts and inability to process claims as a result of this attack is devastating to physician practices that are already struggling to keep their doors open.”

The informal survey involved a convenience sample of more than 1,400 respondents, and demonstrates that significant problems continue, especially for small practices (practices with 10 or fewer physicians), which represent 1,097 (78%) of all respondents.


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