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Suspected cyberattack impacts pharmacies processing claims for Vermonters on Medicaid

A pharmacist puts an orange prescription bottle in a white bag.
SDI Productions/Getty Images
The Department of Vermont Health Access has issued guidelines to pharmacies to help ensure Vermonters continue to have access to prescriptions and refills.

The company that operates the pharmacy claims system for Vermont’s Medicaid program is experiencing a cyber security issue that could impact patients’ access to prescription medications.

Alex McCracken, director of communications for the Department of Vermont Health Access, said the issue has resulted in the temporary outage of a system that processes prescription claims for the 200,000 Vermonters enrolled in Medicaid.

The state contracts with a company called Change Healthcare, which merged with Optum in 2022, to operate Medicaid pharmacy claims. UnitedHealth Group, which owns Change Healthcare, reported a "suspected nation-state associated cyber security threat" to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, Feb. 21. The threat prompted the company to disconnect Change Healthcare's systems.

McCracken said DVHA has issued guidelines to pharmacies and other providers on how to maintain access while those systems are down. On Monday, the department also shared an FAQ with updated guidance for pharmacies and Medicaid members.

“So we’re taking every step that we can to ensure that access is not interrupted, but this can have an impact on filling prescriptions, prior authorizations and refills,” McCracken said on Friday. “There may be delays. We’re working to ensure that there is as minimal interruption to access as humanly possible.”

McCracken said Change Healthcare told DVHA that there’s no indication that patients' confidential data was compromised. He also said DVHA is “confident” that the breach did not impact any systems run directly by the state of Vermont.

Optum is posting updates on its website. In an update on Monday morning, the company said they were still working to restore their systems. The issue is affecting pharmacies across the country.

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The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
Zoe McDonald is a digital producer in Vermont Public’s newsroom. Previously, she served as the multimedia news producer for WBHM, central Alabama’s local public radio station. Before she discovered her love for public media, she created content for brands like Insider, Southern Living and Health. She graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Mississippi in 2017. Zoe enjoys reading, drinking tea, trying new recipes and hiking with her dog.
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