UnitedHealth creates brand new ePrescribing site as temp hack fix

UnitedHealth Group (UHG) says a new Change Healthcare's ePrescribing service – launched Friday to combat the extensive pharmacy delays blanketing the nation since last week's cyberattack forced a system shutdown – is now live.

“We have completed standing up a new instance of Change Healthcare's Rx ePrescribing service,” a UnitedHealth spokesperson told Cybernews just minutes before the site officially went live across the nation Friday afternoon.

The service went live for all Change Healthcare customers “effective 1 p.m. CT, Friday, March 1st, 2024.” the UHG spokesperson said.

“Working with technology and business partners, we have successfully completed testing with vendors and multiple retail pharmacy partners for the impacted transaction types,” the California-based healthcare conglomerate said.

The Change Healthcare Clinical Exchange ePrescribing service is used by thousands of medical providers to electronically send error-free patient prescriptions directly to their pharmacies, ensuring patient safety.

The service also allows providers access to patients' insurance information to determine prescription costs – one of the major reasons pharmacies have been having trouble filling prescriptions since the February 21st Change Healthcare breach, since claimed by the ALPHV/BlackCat ransomware group.

Change Healthcare cyberattack ALPHV/BlackCat750

As the aftermath progressed, “significant backlogs” were reported at independent and major retail pharmacies, including CVS and Walgreens, leaving many fearful they would not be able to fill life-saving prescriptions.

Tuesday, UHG told Cybernews it was able to release a workaround for providers and pharmacists “to ensure people have access to the medications and the care they need.”

A ransomware attack that keeps giving

Change Healthcare is one of the largest health technology companies in the US providing health technology platforms, including payments and billing, medical, and patient services to cover nearly 85 million Americans.

The UHG and Optum subsidiary said it quickly disconnected its servers once discovering the breach, but the damages are likely to be far-reaching the longer Change Healthcare is down.

Not only did the pharmacy sector experience major issues, but Thursday, another panic began to spread, this time across hospitals and medical practices that have seen all payments frozen because of the system-wide shutdown.

Larger healthcare organizations can absorb the costs, but smaller practices are feeling the strain, leaving some practitioners cash-strapped and unable to pay there bills or employees.

UHG’s Chief Operating Officer announced the company was in the process of setting up a loan program for providers still unable to submit insurance claims while systems are offline.

Meantime, about a week into the aftermath, the notorious ALPHV/BlackCat ransomware group claimed responsibility for the attack in a dark web blog post – which UHG confirmed Thursday in a statement sent to Cybernews.

Although the Russian affiliates erased the entry from its leak site soon after, it was chock full of details about the hack and boasted about exfiltrating at least half a dozen terabytes from Change’s servers.

The gang claimed to have stolen “highly selective data” files filled with the sensitive information of millions of individuals, including active duty US military members, patient social security numbers, bank account numbers, and more.

ALPHV also claimed to have private data from thousands of healthcare, insurance, and medical companies, including mammoth entities Medicare, CVS Caremark and MetLife.

UHG said is it working with law enforcement and outside cybersecurity specialists from Mandiant and Palo Alto Networks to help recover and restore systems.

The company has provided no timeline for restoration, which healthcare security experts are anticipating could take weeks if not months.

UHG says if any clients “encounter issues following the activation of this script routing service,’ they can contact the Change Healthcare support team via “normal channels or submit an online ticket via our support portal.”

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Tuesday, UHG told Cybernews it was able to release a workaround for providers and pharmacists “to ensure people have access to the medications and the care they need.”

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