Feb 27, 2024 - Business

Report: DOJ launches antitrust probe into UnitedHealth

Illustration of two columns forming a health plus.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

The Department of Justice launched an antitrust investigation into UnitedHealth, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: UnitedHealth dominates U.S. health care, and has survived one DOJ suit previously.

Zoom in: In recent weeks, DoJ investigators have been interviewing health care industry representatives in areas where UnitedHealth competes, including doctor groups, WSJ says.

  • Investigators have inquired about relationships between UnitedHealthcare's insurance unit and subsidiary Optum's health-services arm, per the report.

By the numbers: UnitedHealth's stock was down 2.3% at close on the news.

The bottom line: The FTC and DOJ are keeping busy, as the current administration remains relentless in efforts to crack down on anti-competition.

Our thought bubble: Optum arguably created the playbook for owning doctors offices and is now the largest employer of physicians in the U.S.

  • A breakup would be complicated business — and would undercut the vertical integration strategy that peers and private equity alike have emulated.

The bottom line: Optum was once a steady buyer of large, private equity-backed provider groups, but those days may be over.

DoJ declined to comment. UnitedHealth did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

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