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UnitedHealth Group Faces Another DOJ Antitrust Investigation

UnitedHealth Group, owner of the biggest U.S. health insurer, is reportedly facing an antitrust investigation by the Justice Department.

This probe is focusing on UnitedHealth’s various sectors, including its UnitedHealthcare insurance unit and its Optum health services arm, which owns physician groups and other assets, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported Tuesday (Feb. 27).

The investigators have been questioning healthcare industry representatives to understand the impact of UnitedHealth’s doctor-group acquisitions on rivals and consumers, according to the report.

UnitedHealth executives have denied any favoritism between UnitedHealthcare and Optum, stating that they work regularly with competitors, the report said.

This investigation comes as the Biden administration intensifies antitrust probes on major U.S. companies, per the report. The healthcare industry has been highlighted as a priority in these efforts, with UnitedHealth being a key target due to its past antitrust challenges.

UnitedHealth had $372 billion in revenue last year, according to the report. It covers about 53 million people through its insurance unit and employs about 90,000 physicians, surgery centers, health data and technology units, and pharmacy-benefit managers through Optum.

The Justice Department is also scrutinizing UnitedHealth’s planned acquisition of home-health company Amedisys for about $3.3 billion, the report said. In August, Amedisys received a second request for information about the deal from Justice Department antitrust enforcers.

Amedisys agreed to the merger in June. When announcing the planned deal, Amedisys and UnitedHealth said that the combination would unite two organizations that provide “compassionate, value-based comprehensive care to patients and their families.”

Additionally, UnitedHealth faces a private antitrust suit from a California hospital system called Emanate Health, per the report.

Investigators are looking into Medicare billing issues, potential conflicts of interest with health insurers, and compliance with federal rules regarding premium expenses, according to the report.

UnitedHealth has in the past denied any anticompetitive potential and asserted that Optum operates independently from UnitedHealthcare, per the report.

In September 2022, a federal judge ruled against a Justice Department antitrust challenge to UnitedHealth Group’s $13 billion acquisition of HealthTech firm Change Healthcare.

This decision rejected claims that the deal would unlawfully shut down competition and limit innovation.