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Report: Justice Department investigating UnitedHealth Group


Vertical integration of health care draws regulatory scrutiny.

unitedhealthcare corp hq © JHVEPhoto - stock.adobe.com

This photo shows UnitedHealthcare's corporate headquarters in May 2023.
© JHVEPhoto - stock.adobe.com

The U.S. Department of Justice has started an antitrust investigation of the UnitedHealth Group, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

UnitedHealth Group, which is headquartered in suburban Minneapolis, comprises the health insurer UnitedHealthcare and Optum, which owns and operates doctors’ practices; a pharmacy benefit manager, Optum Rx, and a large number of other healthcare businesses. In 2023, the company's revenues totaled $372 billion.

The Journal is reporting that the Justice Department is investigating Optum’s purchases of physician groups and their contracting practices. According to the newspaper, department investigators have asked whether UnitedHealthcare favored Optum-owned practices.

The Journal credited the Examiner News, a newspaper in Mount Kisco, New York, with first reporting on the antitrust investigation.

It has been widely reported that the Justice Department has made inquiries regarding UnitedHealth’s $3.3 billion purchase of Amedisys, a hospice and home health provider.

Apart from today's news, the vertical concentration of U.S. healthcare businesses into large companies such as UnitedHealth and CVS Health has started to draw some attention and scrutiny. CVS Health, in addition to its well-known retail pharmacies, owns Aetna, the health insurer; CVS Caremark, a pharmacy benefit management company; Oak Street Health, a primary care company and Signify Health, a home health care and value-based care copnay

The health insurance industry was headed toward horizontal concentration until, in 2017, the Justice Department moved to block the merger of Aetna with Humana and Anthem (now called Elevance Health) with Cigna (which acquired Express Scripts, a large pharmacy benefits management company, in 2018).

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