Looks like UnitedHealthcare might have been saving up all those profits to buy itself an extravagant New Year’s gift. In early January, United’s subsidiary Optum announced that it will purchase the technology company Change Healthcare for $13 billion dollars in a deal that we think all health systems and provider groups need to keep an eye on. What makes Change Healthcare so valuable to United? It’s simple: the acquisition allows United to accelerate its pace towards owning the full healthcare funnel, which is essentially the reason it created Optum in the first place. As a reminder, while UnitedHealthcare is the insurance arm of UnitedHealth Group, Optum focuses on care delivery services, pharmacy benefits, and of course, data analytics. With Change Healthcare, United gains access to a significant store of providers’ financial and clinical data, accelerating and supporting the expansion of its provider business. According to some analysts, the deal positions Optum to offer clinicians enhanced data to drive care decisions, improve claims processing and payment, and add more transparency to the billing process. We see it a little differently, with United using Change Healthcare to tighten the web it is weaving all across the healthcare system, using data and technology products to strengthen its position across all healthcare industry sectors. With the purchase of Change Healthcare, we expect United—via Optum—to continue crawling all over providers’ data, but not necessarily to providers’ benefit.
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