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What We’re Reading: HHS Investigating Change Cyberattack; Maternal Mortality Data Questioned; Drug Testing in Welfare

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The HHS Office for Civil Rights is investigating whether patient data were exposed in the cyberattack on Change Healthcare; a new study claims that the US’ high maternal mortality rates are the product of flawed data; HHS secretary is open to drug testing recipients of welfare.

HHS Opens Probe Into Privacy Impacts of Change Healthcare Cyberattack

The HHS Office for Civil Rights has opened an investigation into whether the cyberattack on Change Healthcare involved patients’ protected health information and whether the claims processor sufficiently protected patient privacy, according to the Associated Press. The attack in late February brought down the systems of Change Healthcare, a unit of UnitedHealth Group, wreaking havoc on billing and reimbursement, though the company said Wednesday that its major pharmacy and payment systems were back online. The Office for Civil Rights, which enforces federal privacy and security laws for patients’ health information, said its probe was spurred by the “unprecedented magnitude” of the ransomware attack.

Flawed Data to Blame for Apparent High Maternal Mortality Rates in US, Study Claims

New study findings could upend the notion that the US has an especially high and rising maternal mortality rate, claiming that the trend is a result of incorrectly classified data, The Hill reports. Published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the study reports that deaths are considered maternal mortality events if the “pregnancy” box is checked on a death certificate, but this box was at times checked erroneously, including for hundreds of people older than 70 years. The researchers noted that despite the misclassified maternal deaths, racial and ethnic disparities in maternal mortality persist, including disproportionately high rates among Black women.

Amid Fentanyl Crisis, HHS Secretary Doesn’t Rule Out Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

Speaking at Politico’s Health Care Summit, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra seemed open to the idea of requiring drug testing for recipients of welfare benefits. Considering the severity of the substance use epidemic, driven largely by fentanyl overdoses, Becerra said he wouldn’t dictate what actions cities, counties, or states should take; instead, all options should be left on the table. Such a measure was approved by San Francisco voters earlier this month, indicating how even heavily Democratic municipalities are turning to tougher policies to combat the tide of substance use.

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