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'Already a three-headed dragon': Medical groups rebuke judge's approval of UHC, Change merger

Medical associations nationwide have condemned a federal judge's move to clear UnitedHealth Group's acquisition of Change Healthcare for $7.8 billion following a challenge from the Justice Department.

In 2021, both the American Hospital Association and the National Community Pharmacists Association had called on the government to investigate and block the deal over claims it would give the company unfair competitive advantages throughout the healthcare industry.

On Sept. 19, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols ruled in favor of the merger and rejected the Justice Department's lawsuit.

3 medical group responses to the court decision:

American Hospital Association "We are disappointed in the court’s decision in the Department of Justice's lawsuit to block UnitedHealth Group's acquisition of Change Healthcare," AHA general counsel Melinda Hatton said. "We warned that this deal could lead to a massive concentration of sensitive health care data in the hands of a single, powerful owner with an inherent conflict of interest and we remain concerned despite this ruling. We will continue to advocate to protect patients and their health care providers from anticompetitive conduct by commercial health insurance companies and urge federal authorities to remain vigilant." National Community Pharmacists Association "We would like to thank the Department of Justice for meeting with us, listening to our concerns, and fighting to block two dominant companies from becoming even more dominant. We are deeply disappointed in Judge Carl Nichols' decision, which we believe will ultimately lead to less competition and consumer harm in the form of patient steering, less access, and higher costs." "With its insurance business, its pharmacy benefit manager business, and its mail-order pharmacy business, UnitedHealthcare is already a three-headed dragon and one of the worst actors in the market. The acquisition of the Change Healthcare will give it a massive advantage over its competitors, and it will create an irresistible incentive for the insurance company to use patient data to steer business to its own pharmacy, and away from local, small-business pharmacies." American Pharmacy Cooperative "We've seen time and again that consolidations in healthcare have been bad for patients and this particular acquisition raises many anticompetitive concerns," Tim Hamrick, APCI CEO, said. "We are extremely disappointed with the ruling that will allow this merger between UHG and Change to move forward. Nonetheless, APCI commends and thanks the Department of Justice and their attorneys for fighting against further consolidation in American healthcare."

Reporter: Jakob Emerson


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