The U.S. Department of Justice and parties from New York and Minnesota have filed to drop an appeal to block UnitedHealth Group’s acquisition of Change Healthcare, after a September ruling in U.S. District Court allowed the $13 billion deal to go through.
In a Monday filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, all parties agreed to voluntarily dismiss the case and assume any costs incurred by the appeal.
The DOJ waited over a month to file its November appeal after the deal between UnitedHealth and Change closed in October, prompting some antitrust experts to wonder if the agency would let the deal go through without further challenge.
During bench trials to block the merger, the DOJ argued that UnitedHealth’s acquisition of Change would disadvantage rivals and result in higher costs and lower quality of commercial health insurance. United Health, one of the largest healthcare insurers in the U.S., proposed to buy Change Healthcare in 2021 in order to incorporate its data-processing capabilities for insurance claims and integrate the business into its Optum arm.
Judge Carl Nichols said in a September opinion that the DOJ’s arguments had “serious flaws,” and that they relied on “speculation” rather than real-world evidence to prove the department’s antitrust claims. Nichols served as a law clerk to Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, and was appointed to the bench by then-President Donald Trump.
The antitrust challenge coincided with other prominent DOJ challenges, including its suit to block publisher Penguin Random House from taking over publisher Simon & Schuster.
In its fourth-quarter and full-year 2022 results, UnitedHealth said it was currently working to accelerate integrating Change Healthcare and its Optum Insights arm.
The DOJ did not respond to a request for comment.