UnitedHealth-Change deal battles roadblocks: A timeline

Since UnitedHealth Group said it intended to acquire health technology company Change Healthcare in January 2021, both provider advocates and regulators have pushed back against the $13 billion deal.

Most recently, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit Feb. 24 challenging the acquisition, establishing yet another major roadblock and delaying the deal further into 2022.

UnitedHealth Group intends to fight the lawsuit, saying the Justice Department takes a "deeply flawed position [that] is based on highly speculative theories that do not reflect the realities of the healthcare system."

Below is a timeline of the deal, beginning with its announcement: 

Jan. 6, 2021: UnitedHealth Group and Change Healthcare initially announce the $13 billion deal. The deal would merge Change Healthcare with Optum's OptumInsight unit to offer software, data analytics and other services to healthcare clients. The parties anticipate the deal will close in the second half of 2021. 

March 24, 2021: The deal is met with resistance by the American Hospital Association,which encourages the Justice Department to investigate the move. The department responds by asking for information on the deal. 

April 13, 2021: Despite public opposition, Change Healthcare shareholders approve the deal. 

Aug. 7, 2021: The parties strike a timing agreement with the Justice Department that will require UnitedHealth Group and Change Healthcare to submit more information regarding the deal. After information is submitted, the parties will need to wait at least 120 days before they can commence the merger. 

Sept. 30, 2021: In the interim, lobbying groups representing providers continue to protest the deal. The National Community Pharmacists Association calls on the Justice Department to block the move, saying it will lead to an "unfair competitive advantage for a company that is already dominant."

Nov. 3, 2021: The Justice Department and the merger parties amend their timing agreement, pushing back the deadline to late February. 

Dec. 9, 2021: UnitedHealth Group says the company intends to complete the merger on April 5, 2022, barring any changes. 

Jan. 25, 2022: Change Healthcare considers selling off assets to make its merger deal with UnitedHealth Group easier. 

Feb. 2, 2022: The National Community Pharmacists Association issues another call to block the merger, this time to the Federal Trade Commission. 

Feb. 15, 2022: Reporting breaks that the Justice Department is considering blocking the deal via a lawsuit. At the same time, both companies are preparing for a "last rites" meeting with the department as the end of their previous timing agreement draws near. 

Feb. 17, 2022: Change Healthcare and UnitedHealth Group give a deadline of Feb. 27 for the Justice Department to intervene to block the deal. 

Feb. 24, 2022: The Justice Department files a lawsuit challenging the acquisition.

Feb. 24, 2022: The American Hospital Association praises the Justice Department for challenging the deal, saying in a statement, "Had the DOJ allowed this transaction to move forward it would have permitted a massive concentration of sensitive healthcare data in the hands of a single, powerful owner with an inherent conflict of interest."

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