CMS offers advance payment to physicians amid Change Healthcare ‘crisis’

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is offering advanced payments to help physicians hampered by the Change Healthcare outage.

CMS announced the new relief program in a rare Saturday press release. The agency said it is making available “Change Healthcare/Optum Payment Disruption” advanced payments to Part B suppliers experiencing claims disruptions due to the cyberattack.

“CMS recognizes that providers and suppliers may face significant cash flow problems from the unusual circumstances impacting facilities’ operations, preventing facilities from submitting claims and receiving Medicare claims payments when using the Change Healthcare platform,” the agency said in a fact sheet issued March 9. “CMS has heard these concerns and is taking direct action to support the important needs of the healthcare sector.”

Advance payments may be granted in amounts representative of up to 30 days of claims payments to eligible providers. The average 30-day payment is based on the total claims paid to the party between Aug. 1 and Oct. 31, 2023, divided by three.  You can read much more about the eligibility criteria and how to apply in the fact sheet. The agency had originally said it would only consider accelerated payment requests from hospitals but extended the relief program to physicians amid outcry from the American Medical Association and others.

Many Medicaid providers also have been “deeply affected” by the cyberattack, CMS acknowledged. Officials continue to work with states and are urging all Medicaid managed care plans to make prospective payments to impacted providers.

Each Medicare Administrative Contractor will provide public information on how to submit requests for advanced payments, CMS said. The agency also has encouraged Medicare Advantage organizations to aid physicians affected by the attack. Federal officials have met with private health plan providers, too, encouraging “their continued efforts to help avoid further disruption to the healthcare sector.”

America’s Physician Groups—which represents 360 such organizations employing 170,000 doctors—praised CMS for its response to this ongoing “crisis.”   

“The newly announced Change Healthcare/Optum Payment Disruption advance payments to Part B providers/suppliers will go a long way to relieving cash-flow pressures felt by many of our members and other physician practices in the aftermath of the cyberattack,” APG President and CEO Susan Dentzer said in a statement issued March 9. “We are thankful that CMS and others in the Biden administration heard our concerns and request for action, and we also appreciate that members of Congress recognized the seriousness of the situation and communicated their concerns as well.”

Marty Stempniak

Marty Stempniak has covered healthcare since 2012, with his byline appearing in the American Hospital Association's member magazine, Modern Healthcare and McKnight's. Prior to that, he wrote about village government and local business for his hometown newspaper in Oak Park, Illinois. He won a Peter Lisagor and Gold EXCEL awards in 2017 for his coverage of the opioid epidemic. 

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