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Senator Calls for Emergency Funds for Hospitals Amid Cyber Attack

Following a massive cyber attack against health-care providers across upstate New York, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is calling for financial relief for providers impacted by the attack.

Shutterstock/Tyler Olson
(TNS) — Following a massive cyberattack against health care providers across upstate New York, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer is calling for financial relief for providers impacted by the attack.

The ransomware attack targeted Change Healthcare, which is owned by its parent company UnitedHealth Group. UnitedHealth Group providers include Sunnyview Hospital Rehabilitation Center in Schenectady, Saratoga Hospital, St. Peter's in Albany and Samaritan Hospital in Troy. In response, Schumer is calling the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide emergency funds for the struggling hospitals by using the Advanced and Accelerated Payment program that helped keep hospitals afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schumer said the emergency funds are being provided as loans and will be paid back once the systems are back in operation.

During a virtual press conference on Tuesday, Schumer said impacted hospitals are struggling with delayed payments and processing insurance claims, leading to millions of dollars in losses since March. 1.

"Yesterday I went to two hospitals, Rome Health in Oneida County and Cayuga Health in Ithaca, and they were telling me that if CMS didn't interfere, it will take a while for Change Healthcare to undo the damage that was done," the Democrat said. "It was a very sophisticated attack. They could stop prescribing services, they could have to lay off employees — it's really severe."

Schumer also urged the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to prioritize finding the perpetrators responsible for the attack.

"The FBI has a great ability to find out, because we are very good in offensive cyber warfare. And, in other instances, when these hackers have gone into systems and ask for ransom, they've been caught and their systems have been taken down by our federal agency. So, we want them to do that."

The latest cyberattack against health providers also comes at a time when many health providers are already financially struggling. Several upstate hospitals have weighed or pursued closures, job losses and mergers to save money.

As the April 1 deadline for the state budget gets closer, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie during an interview with Capital Tonight on Monday night also addressed Medicaid spending and the financial conditions of many hospitals. He also hinted the chamber's one-house budget proposal may include a proposal relating to health care spending.

"I do think the state has to come up with a long-term plan for hospitals to sustain, particularly the hospitals, the municipal hospitals that have low private insurance clientele," he said on Capital Tonight. "I do think we have to come up with a long-term plan."

State and Capital Region lawmakers have sought to postpone or prevent the decision made last year to close the Burdett Birth Center at Samaritan Hospital in Troy. During the closure announcement, hospital officials cited financial hardship following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, St. Peter's Health Partners filed a countersuit against the state Attorney General Letitia James' office to move forward with its planned closure after delaying it last fall. James' office launched an investigation last year following community outcry over the announcement, examining the decision-making process in deciding to close the birthing center.

She is also investigating whether the decision to close the center could violate a promise made to the community by the health care system at the time of the merger between St. Peter's Health Partners and Trinity Health.

© 2024 The Daily Gazette, Schenectady, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.