WSJ: Department of Justice conducting antitrust probe of UnitedHealth Group

Amid a tense week for UnitedHealth Group as the company continues to navigate a cyberattack against its Optum unit, The Wall Street Journal reports that the Biden administration is quietly launching an antitrust probe into the company.

The news outlet reported Wednesday afternoon that investigators with the Department of Justice (DOJ) have conducted interviews in the segments where UnitedHealth competes, including physician groups. Sources told the WSJ that these interviews have included questions about the relationship between UnitedHealthcare and Optum.

UnitedHealth Group has long argued that because Optum sells it services to other payers, sharing information on competitors with UnitedHealthcare would not behoove the company.

According to the WSJ article, the investigators are also probing the impact of UnitedHealth's sprawling provider acquisitions on others in the industry. Its Optum Health arm now employs more than 90,000 physicians.

Both UnitedHealth and DOJ declined to comment, WSJ said.

The Justice Department made a similar push on antitrust grounds to challenge UHG's acquisition of Change Healthcare, which the healthcare giant successfully beat in September 2022. The DOJ argued that the deal was unlawful as access to Change's systems could make UnitedHealth privy to key details on major competitors.

Executives at key insurers testified in that case and said they did not believe the Change Healthcare deal would prevent them from innovating or trying new things for fear of that getting back to UnitedHealthcare.

UnitedHealth's stock was down by about 3% midafternoon following the news.

The WSJ article came amid a challenging week for the UHG team, as a cyberattack took Change's systems offline last Wednesday and the disruption continues. UnitedHealth said it believes a "nation-state" is behind the cybersecurity incident.