The Justice Department today joined Minnesota and New York in filing a federal lawsuit to stop UnitedHealth Group from acquiring Change Healthcare, alleging the proposed $13 billion transaction would harm competition in commercial health insurance markets and in the market for a vital technology used to process claims and reduce health care costs.
“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,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “The Justice Department is committed to challenging anticompetitive mergers, particularly those at the intersection of health care and data.”
In a statement, AHA General Counsel Melinda Hatton said, “The American Hospital Association commends the Department of Justice for its efforts to protect patients and providers, including hospitals and health systems, from United HealthGroup’s attempt to acquire Change Healthcare. The AHA urged DOJ’s Antitrust Division to conduct a thorough investigation of the proposed transaction because of its anticompetitive potential to ‘produce a massive consolidation of competitively sensitive health care data’ under UHG’s exclusive control. We warned repeatedly ‘the combination of the parties data sets would impact (and likely distort) decisions about patient care and claims processing and denials to the detriment of consumers and health care providers ….’ Challenging this proposed combination was the right thing to do to prevent untold competitive harm for patients and health care providers.
“Had DOJ allowed this transaction to move forward it would have permitted a massive concentration of sensitive health care data in the hands of a single, powerful owner with an inherent conflict of interest. There is every indication that it is Change Healthcare that constrains UHG’s largest subsidiary’s (Optum) ability to prejudice payment accuracy in favor of its own financial outcomes by means of increased patient payment denials and coverage restrictions. And, allowing Optum the opportunity to own and then manipulate Change’s proprietary evidence-based clinical support criteria (InterQual) also would have allowed UHG to build its corporate profits by increasing patient claim denials.”