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Central Oregon pharmacies impacted by nationwide cyberattack; some unable to process prescriptions

Bend, ORE. (KTVZ) -- Change Healthcare is the victim of a nationwide cyberattack, resulting in a shutdown of their systems for more than a week and nationwide impacts. The cyberattack prevented some pharmacies from processing prescriptions to insurance companies to receive payment.

According to Prescryptive Pharmacy in Redmond, the two main switches that pharmacies use to process claims are Change Healthcare and RelayHealth.

"If one of them goes down, that's a huge part of the U.S. market." the pharmacy's manager, Levi Martin, said Thursday.

Martin says they primarily use RelayHealth, so they haven't been seriously impacted by the attack. He says he has been dealing with more patients outside of the system, as requests have been coming in from a variety of local pharmacies, including Safeway and Costco.

"I have had patients come here specifically because their regular pharmacy was unable to receive prescriptions." Martin said.

A week after the cyberattack disrupted insurance processing at pharmacies across the US, health care professionals from Maryland to New York tell CNN the hack continues to disrupt their businesses, potentially cutting into revenue.

St. Charles Health System is a user of Change Healthcare. In a statement to NewsChannel 21, they said:

"St. Charles Health System is closely monitoring and responding to the cyberattack to Change Healthcare, which is a national health tech company used by St. Charles that helps pharmacies process claims. Pharmacy services for patients who are in the hospital or who are being discharged are not affected, as the pharmacy continues to fill needed prescriptions for patients. Additionally, data from St. Charles was not impacted, and no patient information was breached during this attack. 

“While this attack has affected our back-end processes, we are working hard to ensure that it is in no way impacting our ability to provide patients with the medications they need,” said Michael Powell, Chief Pharmacy Officer.

According to Mosaic's pharmacy director, back-end processes involve making sure a patient has active insurance.

"That is broken for many pharmacies across the country. And the other piece is being able to fill that prescription. And so that's also not working. So many pharmacies are not able to fill currently for prescription processing." said Melissa Brewster, Mosaic Health's Director of Pharmacy Services.

Affected pharmacies are now forced to require patients to pay out of pocket for their prescription or provide them for free, with the hope of billing the insurance at a later date.

"Small pharmacies and hospitals are really worried right now about their cash flow and the fact that they aren't able to bill for prescriptions. And it can also mean that some patients don't get the medications that they need." Brewster said.

Mosaic's pharmacy director says patients can transfer prescriptions to different pharmacies in town. She says Mosaic Health uses a different processor, so they aren't having issues with their system.

UnitedHealth Group, the owner of Change Healthcare, says the cyberattack was perpetrated by the Blackcat ransomware group.

It's unclear how long it will be until the systems are up and running again, according to pharmacies. Change Healthcare has been working closely with cybersecurity firms and law enforcements to fix the problem.

Article Topic Follows: Business

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Jillian Fortner

Jillian Fortner is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jillian here.


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