What We’re Reading: Ransomware Threatens Health Systems; Government Purchases Antibody Drug; Federal COVID-19 Vaccine Plan

Ransomware attacks threaten US hospitals; the Trump administration purchases 300,000 doses of an antibody drug; CMS releases coverage plan for COVID-19 vaccine and treatments.

FBI Warns of Ransomware Attacks

The FBI and 2 federal agencies warned cybercriminals are releasing a wave of extortion attempts against the United States in an effort to lock hospital information systems, potentially hurting patient care just as nationwide rates of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spike, The Associated Press reported. In a joint alert, the agencies reported malicious groups are targeting the health care sector with attacks that involve data theft and disruption of services. Specifically, the attacks involve ransomware which scrambles data into meaningless characters. The information can only be unlocked with software keys provided after targets pay for them. Five hospitals have already been impacted by the attacks this week and hundreds more are at risk.

Trump Administration Purchases $375 Million of Experimental Antibody Drug

The Trump administration agreed to purchase $375 million of Eli Lilly’s experimental antibody drug to treat COVID-19 patients, according to The Hill. The purchase includes 300,000 doses of the treatment and, should the FDA authorize the drug, the federal government will allocate doses to state and territorial health departments. From there, officials will determine which health care facilities receive the drug for use in outpatient care. Eli Lilly anticipates only high-risk patients will be indicated to receive the drug until more supply is available and more studies are conducted. The delivery will take place over the course of 2 months post authorization and the deal includes an option to purchase up to 650,000 additional doses through the end of June 2021.

CMS Issues Vaccine, Treatment Coverage Rules

CMS issued new insurance coverage rules increasing what Medicare pays hospitals for COVID-19 treatments, The Associated Press reported. Despite legislation enacted by President Donald Trump and Congress calling for COVID-19 vaccines to be free, new rules were needed to align that policy with the numerous payment requirements for public and private insurance. The rules also aim to resolve legal issues over whether Medicare could cover a vaccine that receives an emergency use authorization, as questions have arisen whether Medicare’s standard coverage policies could pay for a vaccine that is not fully approved. Under the new rules, seniors with traditional Medicare will receive the COVID-19 vaccines for free with any co-pays or deductibles waived.