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The Department of Justice has launched an antitrust investigation into UnitedHealth Group, focusing on how the UnitedHealthcare insurance division influences its own Optum health-services arm, according to the Wall Street Journal. Optum’s portfolio includes physician groups and other providers, and the business line employs a total physician force of about 90,000, making it the largest physician employer in the country. The investigation is digging into how Optum’s acquisitions of physician groups impact competition, particularly in relation to ownership ties between physicians and health plans. Investigators are examining whether UnitedHealthcare has systematically favored Optum-owned providers in terms of contract pricing, to the market disadvantage of other providers. UnitedHealthcare’s Medicare billing practices are also in the throes of federal investigation—very much in line with the increasing scrutiny of all Medicare Advantage plans of late. 

Here’s the ongoing saga: UnitedHealth Group has been challenged many times by regulators in its merger and acquisition moves over anti competitive concerns. Meanwhile, company revenue has grown exponentially from $75.43 billion in 2007 to $324.16 in 2022. Optum owns a long list of urgent care centers in 25 states.

DOJ Questions UnitedHealth’s Contracting Practices