UPDATE: Oct. 3, 2022: UnitedHealth Group announced it closed the Change Healthcare acquisition on Monday, Oct. 3.
The Department of Justice has yet to file an appeal in the case against UnitedHealth’s $13 billion acquisition of Change Healthcare, raising questions about whether the DOJ will let the deal go through.
The agency moved to block the health giant from closing the deal that gives UnitedHealth the ability to mine data from billions of healthcare claims including from its health insurance rivals, the DOJ alleged. But on Sept. 19, Federal Judge Carl Nichols ruled in favor of the merger, dealing a blow to the agency.
UnitedHealth had previously agreed it would not close the deal any earlier than ten days following an eventual ruling, but UnitedHealth has not made a public announcement that the deal has closed.
Antitrust legal experts told Healthcare Dive it appears the deal may close soon, which would be viewed as a major setback for the DOJ, which has lost two merger cases this year. Last week, a federal judge said U.S. Sugar could acquire its rival Imperial Sugar despite the DOJ’s attempts to block the deal.
In fact, the DOJ has already said it will file an appeal in the Sugar case it lost, a ruling that came days after the UnitedHealth-Change decision. In that case, the DOJ conceded that it’s important to stop combinations early rather than attempt to “unscramble” assets after a deal closes.
However, the DOJ could still appeal the UnitedHealth-Change ruling. Its earlier deal reached with UnitedHealth doesn’t prevent DOJ from appealing.
“In any challenge to a merger, it is always beneficial for those challenging it to seek to have the merger enjoined before the matter actually closes,” Jim Burns, a partner at Williams Mullen and chair of its Antitrust and Trade Regulation Practice Group, told Healthcare Dive.
But all signs indicate that the DOJ has decided not to appeal, a former government official with antitrust expertise told Healthcare Dive.
To alleviate other antitrust concerns, UnitedHealth agreed to divest ClaimsXten to private equity group TPG Capital.
The DOJ has not responded to requests for comments about seeking a possible settlement with UnitedHealth.
UnitedHealth did not provide additional comment on the DOJ’s lack of appeal or whether a settlement is in the works.