Minnesota's Attorney General has joined an antitrust lawsuit to stop Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group from acquiring Change Healthcare in a deal worth $13 billion.
Attorney General Keith Ellison, along with the U.S. Department of Justice and New York's attorney general, filed the lawsuit Thursday, alleging the acquisition would harm competition in the commercial health insurance market.
The lawsuit claims the anticompetitive effects of the deal mean consumers "could see lower-quality service and higher costs from significantly reduced competition," Ellison's news release says.
This is because, the lawsuit alleges, the acquisition would give UnitedHealth Group more than 75% of the market share in "first pass" health insurance claims-editing. United currently has more than 25% of the national market share, while Nashville-based Change Healthcare has about 50% of the market share. Change is also the program that nine of the top 10 health insurers in the U.S. use (United being the lone exception).
“My job is to help Minnesotans afford their lives — and it’s already tough enough to do that these days, especially with the rising cost of health care. This proposed merger would increase costs and decrease the quality of health care for Minnesotans and all Americans," Ellison said in a statement. "It would put too much market power and data in the hands of one corporation at so many levels of the health care industry, and that would raise costs and decrease choice for consumers in an already deeply flawed system."
Ellison said Minnesotans and people everywhere "should have full access to health care they can afford — not have health insurance companies attempting to undermine that through monopolistic market dominance."
He said he joined the U.S. Department of Justice and New York's lawsuit to prevent the merger "to fight against further vertical market integration, and to fight for better service and lower costs to consumers.”
The lawsuit alleges the proposed acquisition would also "cause significant harm" to United's and Change's competitors.
“The proposed transaction threatens an inflection point in the health care industry by giving United control of a critical data highway through which about half of all Americans’ health insurance claims pass each year,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Doha Mekki of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division said in a news release.
“Unless the deal is blocked, United stands to see and potentially use its health insurance rivals’ competitively sensitive information for its own business purposes and control these competitors’ access to innovations in vital health care technology," Mekki added.
UnitedHealth Group is a health care company that includes the country's largest health insurer, a network of health care providers, a pharmacy benefit manager, and a health care technology business. The company's revenues in 2021 were $288 billion.
Change Healthcare is an independent health care technology company that provides analytics, software, services, and data to health care providers, insurers, and other software and service firms in the industry. Its revenues in 2021 were $3.4 billion.