If healthcare were real estate, UnitedHealth Group owns the whole block.
They just don’t want you to know that.
According to a March 17th article in the Minnesota newspaper The Star Tribune, UnitedHealth Group is firing back against the Department of Justice (DOJ)—and it’s about to get ugly. The Minnetonka-based healthcare behemoth is sticking to its guns (big ones, at that) when it comes to defending its proposed $13 billion acquisition of Nashville-based Change Healthcare.
ICYMI: Back in February, the DOJ partnered with the Attorneys General of Minnesota and New York to file a civil lawsuit against UnitedHealth Group in hopes of preventing its acquisition of Change Healthcare, a healthcare technology company that controls the nation’s largest electronic data interchange (EDI) clearinghouse—the same data that providers use to submit insurance claims and that insurers use for remittances. (No wonder UnitedHealth Group wants to join forces.)
The reason for the suit? The DOJ asserted that UnitedHealth Group’s most recent conquest is “anticompetitive” and would raise costs and harm competition in not only health insurance markets, but also technology used by health insurers to process insurance claims and reduce healthcare costs.” Perhaps more critically, the DOJ is concerned that the deal could lower the quality and raise the cost of health insurance for patients.
Presently, UnitedHealth Group owns and operates OptumInsight, an information and technology-enabled health services company. It also owns UnitedHealthcare—the nation’s largest health insurer. The monopoly board is already pretty full – acquiring Change Healthcare would only add to UnitedHealth Group’s sprawling real estate of healthcare data.
The DOJ has every reason to be skeptical. “Quality health insurance should be accessible to all Americans,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a statement. “If America’s largest health insurer is permitted to acquire a major rival for critical health care claims technologies, it will undermine competition for health insurance and stifle innovation in the employer health insurance markets. The Justice Department is committed to challenging anticompetitive mergers, particularly those at the intersection of health care and data.”
UnitedHealth Group came back in defense, saying that the DOJ’s claims have “no basis in fact and law.” The healthcare giant also said, “The Department’s deeply flawed position is based on highly speculative theories that do not reflect the realities of the health care system.”
So, let’s talk about the realities of the healthcare system. UnitedHealth Group is far and above the largest U.S. health insurer—it’s the market leader. In fact, it claims it’s on track to surpass $300 billion in revenue this year. Money aside, it controls the health benefits of nearly 50 million Americans. And it clearly benefits from its in-house analytics function, OptumInsight.
If the deal with Change Healthcare goes through for UnitedHealth Group, according to the DOJ, it would also get access to sensitive claims data of hundreds of millions of Americans.
More, more more. Does anyone really trust that a deal this big, with a company that powerful, would do anything but line shareholders’ pockets?
We sure don’t.