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Optum shows other insurers the path to more gold

On April 12, 2018, Healthcare Dive reported on the rising number of vertical integrations by Aetna, Cigna and Humana - modeled from the success of Optum and United. Learn more about the risks of insurers taking full control of the industry.

With all the vertical integration that’s happened across the insurance industry over the past decade, it’s not surprising that Optum sometimes gets lumped in with Aetna/CVS, Cigna/Express Scripts, and a series of other mergers and acquisitions—both failed and successful. But United actually recognized the value of owning the full healthcare funnel well ahead of the other major payors. In 2011, the industry giant combined its existing pharmacy and care delivery services into a new master brand, Optum. UnitedHealthcare remains the insurance arm of UnitedHealth Group, while Optum focuses on care delivery services (OptumHealth), data analytics and technology (OptumInsight), and pharmacy benefits (OptumRx). Since 2011, Optum itself has been on an acquisition spree, bringing all manner of businesses into its portfolio and increasing the number of touchpoints United has control of across the patient journey as a result. Case in point, today Optum employs about 50,000 providers. “When it comes to acquisitions to Optum overall, we’re always in the marketplace looking to extend our capabilities, to extend our reach in the care management space to fill in holes or gaps that we have,” Michael Weissel, Optum Group EVP, said. “That’s a constant process in our enterprise.” The bottom line? Through Optum, United has become a massive conglomerate that is increasingly making its money from things that have nothing to do with health insurance. If health insurance is no longer United’s priority, what does that mean for consumers who have UnitedHealthcare coverage?

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