UnitedHealth expects Change Healthcare acquisition to close next year

The outside of UnitedHealth Group's headquarters
UnitedHealth Group kicked off insurer earnings Thursday morning with its third-quarter results. (UnitedHealth Group)

UnitedHealth Group expects its nearly $8 billion acquisition of Change Healthcare to close in early 2022, executives told investors on Thursday.

Chief Operating Officer Dirk McMahon said on the company's earnings call that the regulatory process is proceeding apace.

"We continue to work diligently to satisfy regulatory requests and now believe, based on our experience so far, the transaction should close in the first part of 2022," he said.

"We are highly energized about the positive impact we can have working together with the exceptional Change team; a team aligned with our mission and values and focused on delivering substantial benefits for the health care system," he added.

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The deal, which was first announced in March, has been a controversial one, with critics such as the American Hospital Association arguing that it could lead to significant consolidation in healthcare data. The Department of Justice has been taking a close look into the potential ramifications of the acquisition.

UnitedHealth Group intends to fold Change into its Optum subsidiary, which features a large data analytics arm, OptumInsight.

McMahon said that the company believes the combination will allow it to address gaps in care, reduce administrative waste and allow for greater simplicity in healthcare payments.

"Optum and ChangeHealthcare’s capabilities fundamentally are complementary and distinct. Because both companies already successfully serve health plans and state governments, care providers and consumers in a highly competitive market, we believe this combination will make the health care system work better for everyone, and bring exceptional value to those we serve," McMahon said.

UnitedHealth Group posted $4.1 billion in profit for the third quarter of 2021, up nearly $1 billion compared to the same period in 2020.

The earnings results also surpassed Wall Street analysts' expectations, according to Zacks Investment Research. UHG reported $72.3 billion in revenue for the quarter, up from $65.1 billion in the third quarter of 2020.

The revenue figure also beat the Street, Zacks said.

“Our positive growth and operating results are thanks to the 340,000 Optum and UnitedHealthcare team members who strive every day to help clinicians deliver and people access quality, affordable health care,” said Andrew Witty, CEO of UHG, in a statement.

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Through three quarters, UHG has brought in $213.9 billion in revenue, up from $191.7 billion through the first nine months of 2020.

Profit for the first nine months of 2021 is on par with 2020, with both figures landing at $13.2 billion, UnitedHealth said.

The third quarter marked yet another quarter of double-digit growth at Optum, with revenues up 13.9% to reach $39.8 billion. UnitedHealth said all three of its core businesses saw growth in the quarter, with OptumHealth leading the way.

As of the third quarter, OptumHealth had served 99 million patients, up from 98 million a year ago. Revenue per patient was up 30% year over year.

UnitedHealthcare also posted double-digit revenue growth, UHG said, hitting $55.9 billion. That's an 11% increase compared to the prior year.

UnitedHealthcare added 790,000 members in the third quarter, the company said, led by Medicare Advantage, dual special needs plans and Medicaid.

Because of the results, UHG is boosting its full-year earnings outlook to between $18.65 and $18.90 per share. It expects net unfavorable effects from COVID-19 consistent with projections from earlier this year.