UPDATE 2-US launches antitrust investigation into UnitedHealth, WSJ reports

(Adds probe details and background throughout, DoJ response in paragraph 7)

Feb 27 (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an antitrust investigation into UnitedHealth Group , the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

Investigators have in recent weeks been interviewing healthcare industry representatives in sectors where UnitedHealth competes, including doctor groups, the report said.

During their interviews, investigators have asked about issues including certain relationships between the company’s UnitedHealthcare insurance unit and its Optum health-services-arm, which owns physician groups, among other assets.

UnitedHealth’s unit, Optum Health, offers a range of healthcare solutions, from pharmacy benefit management to financial consultation and mental health support.

Investigators have asked about possible impacts of the company’s doctor-group acquisitions on rivals and consumers, the WSJ report said, citing the people.

The DoJ has previously sued to stop UnitedHealth Group’s acquisition of Change Healthcare in February 2022, but completed the buyout later that year.

The DoJ declined to comment, while UnitedHealth did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Shares of the company closed down 2.3%.

On Monday, Examiner Media reported, citing an internal email, that UnitedHealth received a notice from the DoJ in October last year, saying it had begun a “non-public antitrust investigation into the company”. (Reporting by Sriparna Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Maju Samuel)

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