UnitedHealth offers over $3.3 billion in loans to providers hit by attack on unit

FILE PHOTO: UnitedHealth Group's headquarters building is seen in Minnetonka, Minnesota

(Reuters) - UnitedHealth Group said on Wednesday it has advanced more than $3.3 billion in loans to care providers impacted by a cyberattack on the U.S. healthcare conglomerate' tech unit last month.

Earlier this month, UnitedHealth launched a temporary funding program for providers after a ransomware attack on Feb. 21 on Change Healthcare delayed their insurance claims processing, causing a severe cash crunch for them.

The largest U.S. health insurer said the providers will get 45 business days to pay back the loan.

UnitedHealth has given more than 40% of the $3.3 billion to so-called safety net hospitals and federally qualified health centers serving high-risk patients and communities.

The U.S. government has also stepped in to help curb the chaos stemming from the breach that has hit smaller medical care providers particularly hard, with some facing a no win choice, where they either stop treating patients or not pay staff.

UnitedHealth, in an update last Friday, said it had begun processing a backlog of more than $14 billion in medical claims.

Change Healthcare processes 15 billion healthcare transactions annually and is involved in one in every three patient records.

It will take the largest U.S. health insurer months to fully recover from the disruptions at Change, which was attacked by a hacking group that calls itself "ALPHV" - also known as "BlackCat".

The State Department has offered up to $10 million for information on the hacking group.

The Department of Health and Human Services is investigating whether there was a breach of protected health data.

(Reporting by Chandni Shah in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu, Christopher Cushing and Shinjini Ganguli)