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Will The Change Healthcare Incident Change Health Care?

March 18, 2024
Health Affairs
Summary
The article discusses the significant cyberattack on Change Healthcare on February 21, 2024, by the AlphV hacker collective, which disrupted a large portion of US health payments and compromised up to 85 million patients' records. This event underscores the vulnerability of the complex, proprietary medical payment system, likening its impact on American healthcare finance to the "Deepwater Horizon" disaster. It delves into the evolution of Change Healthcare, tracing its origins back to the internet-based e-commerce initiatives spurred by HIPAA in the mid-90s, leading to its acquisition by UnitedHealth Group's Optum subsidiary in 2021. This centralization of health payment infrastructures under a single entity like UnitedHealth Group, combined with the cyberattack's ramifications, calls for a policy response to decentralize and secure the payment system, drawing parallels with the Medicare Administrative Contractor system's success. The article advocates for federally regulated and competitive contracting to provide claims management services, enforcing stringent data security protocols to prevent future cyberterrorism, while simplifying and standardizing health payment rules to reduce administrative waste and enhance national health security.
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