United Healthcare's Pursuit of Monopoly
The Justice Department recently filed a lawsuit against United Healthcare in its acquisition of Change Healthcare that took place last year. Change Healthcare is an "information and technology-enabled" platform for payment and revenue cycle management. The Justice Department sued on the grounds that the addition puts "too many healthcare claims information in the hands of one company." United Healthcare is the US's largest insurance company, and this addition gives them access to claims information from competing insurance companies.
In their court complaint, regulators stated United Healthcare is a "serial acquirer that has purchased more than 35 healthcare companies over the last 10 years". Justice Department officials said in the statement that the deal would give United Healthcare control of a "critical data highway through which about half of all Americans' health insurance claims pass each year."
This week United Healthcare quietly added another acquisition to their broad portfolio. Optum (a United Healthcare information technology company) acquired Refresh, which provides mental health services by managing about 300 clinics for inpatient and outpatient care.
This is one of many acquisitions showing United Healthcare aggressively expanding into technology and data collection. Three weeks ago, Optum also added Atrius Health, Massachusetts' largest physician network (50,000 physicians).
It appears Optum/United Healthcare is not only aggressive but strategic in its acquisitions. The mental health market expanded during Covid. However, Refresh wasn't acquired by one of the many healthcare companies under the United Healthcare umbrella, it was acquired by a tech company. At the time of writing, a reason for this has not been provided.