UnitedHealth Group

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UnitedHealth Group Incorporated
Traded as
IndustryManaged health care
Founded1977; 42 years ago (1977)
FounderRichard T. Burke
HeadquartersMinnetonka, Minnesota, U.S.
Key people
Richard T. Burke (Chairman)
Dave Wichmann (CEO)
ProductsUniprise, Health Care Services, Specialized Care Services, and Ingenix
RevenueIncrease US$226.2 billion (2018)[1]
Increase US$17.20 billion (2018)[1]
Increase US$12.38 billion (2018)[1]
Total assetsIncrease US$152.2 billion (2018)[1]
Total equityIncrease US$54.31 billion (2018)[1]
Number of employees
300,000 (2019)[2]

UnitedHealth Group Inc. (named United HealthCare Corporation from 1977 to 1988), is an American for-profit managed health care company based in Minnetonka, Minnesota. As of 2018, it is ranked #5 on the Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.[3] UnitedHealth Group offers health care products and insurance services. UnitedHealth Group is the largest healthcare company in the world by revenue with $226.2 billion in 2018. UnitedHealth Group subsidiary companies together serves approximately 115 million individuals in 2016.

Organizational structure[edit]


The Optum brand was created in 2011 to unify the group's health services business.[4] Optum is UnitedHealth's technology-focused arm.[5]


UnitedHealthcare includes four divisions:

  • UnitedHealthcare Employer and Individual - provides health benefit plans and services for large national employers
  • UnitedHealthcare Community and State - provides managed care solutions[clarification needed] to state Medicaid programs
  • UnitedHealthcare Medicare and Retirement - addresses[clarification needed] the health and well-being of individuals age 50 and older
  • UnitedHealthcare Global - serves more than 4 million people with medical benefits, principally in Brazil, but also residing in about 125 other countries

Health insurance plans[edit]

As of 2018, UnitedHealthcare offers commercial group health insurance plans across the United States under several product names with different offerings.[6]:13 UnitedHealthcare Select is exclusive provider organization (EPO) with no coverage for out-of-network providers[7]:2 while UnitedHealthcare Select Plus is a preferred provider organization (PPO).[7]

UnitedHealthcare Choice functions as a HMO plan with access to specialists,[7] whereas UnitedHealthcare Choice Plus is an HMO which allows for out-of-network coverage.[7]

UnitedHealthcare Navigate, Charter, and Compass require a primary care physician referral to see a specialist[6] meaning that they are more restrictive managed care plans, similar to point of service plans.

Provider networks[edit]

UnitedHealthcare negotiates with providers in periodic contract negotiations; contracts may be discontinued from time to time.[6] High-profile contract disputes can span provider networks across the nation, as in the case of a 2018 dispute with a major emergency room doctor group Envision Healthcare.[8]

Maintaining up-to-date provider directories is necessary as CMS can fine insurers with outdated directories.[9] As a condition of participation, UnitedHealthcare requires that providers notify them of changes, but also has a Professional Verification Outreach program to proactively request information from providers.[6] However, providers are burdened by having to maintain their information with multiple networks (e.g., competitors to UnitedHealthcare). The total cost of maintaining these directories is estimated at $2.1b annually, and a blockchain initiative began in 2018 to share the directory.[9]



In 1974, Richard Taylor Burke founded Charter Med Incorporated, a Minnetonka, Minnesota-based privately held company.

In 1977, the United HealthCare Corporation was created to reorganize the company and become the parent company of Charter Med.[10] United HealthCare’s charter was to manage the newly created Physicians Health Plan of Minnesota, an early health management organization.[citation needed]


In 1988, United HealthCare started its first pharmacy benefit management, through its Diversified Pharmaceutical Services Inc. subsidiary. It managed pharmacy benefits delivered both through retail pharmacies and mail.[10] The subsidiary was sold to SmithKline Beecham in 1994 for $2.3 billion.[11]


In 1994, United HealthCare acquired Ramsey-HMO, a Florida insurer.[12]

In 1995, the company acquired The MetraHealth Companies Inc. for $1.65 billion. MetraHealth was a privately held company formed by combining the group health care operations of The Travelers Insurance Company and Metropolitan Life Insurance Company also known as MetLife.[10]

In 1996, United HealthCare acquired HealthWise of America, which operated HMOs in Arkansas, Maryland, Kentucky and Tennessee.[13]

In 1998, the company was reorganized as the holding of independent companies UnitedHealthcare, Ovations, Uniprise, Specialized Care Services and Ingenix, and rebranded as "UnitedHealth Group".[10]

Also in 1998, United Health Group acquired HealthPartners of Arizona, operator of Arizona's largest AHCCCS provider.[14]


In 2001, EverCare, a UnitedHealth Group subsidiary merged with LifeMark Health Plans[15]

In 2002, UnitedHealth Group acquired GeoAccess and Medicaid insurance company AmeriChoice.[16]

In 2003, UnitedHealth Group acquired Mid Atlantic Medical Services, an insurer serving Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, Delaware and West Virginia.[17] Also in 2003, UnitedHealth Group acquired Golden Rule Financial, a provider of health savings accounts.[18]

On July 21, 2003, Exante Bank started operating in Salt Lake City, Utah, as a Utah state-chartered industrial loan corporation. It changed its name to OptumHealth Bank in 2008 and to Optum Bank in 2012. Optum Bank is part of the financial services unit of Optum a health and wellness company serving more than 74 million people. Optum is part of the UnitedHealth Group family of companies.[19]

In April 2004, UnitedHealth Group acquired Touchpoint Health Plan, a Wisconsin health plan.[20] In July 2004, UnitedHealth Group acquired Oxford Health Plans and all of UnitedHealthcare's New York-based small group contracts are now Oxford Health Plans products.

In 2005, United HealthCare acquired Prescription Solutions, another pharmacy benefit manager, as part of its acquisition of PacifiCare Health Systems.[21] This business was later rebranded OptumRx. As of 2017, OptumRx covered 65 million people in the United States.[22]

In December 2005, the company received final regulatory approval for its $9.2 billion purchase of PacifiCare Health Systems. It agreed to divest parts of PacifiCare's commercial health insurance business in Tucson, Arizona and Boulder, Colorado to satisfy antitrust regulator concerns, and also agreed to end its network access agreement with Blue Shield of California.[23] The Tucson business was sold to Cigna.[23] Also in December 2005, UnitedHealth Group acquired John Deere Health Care.[24]

In March 2007, UnitedHealth Group signed a definitive agreement to acquire Sierra Health Services Inc. for $2.6 billion. Sierra provided health benefits and services to 310,000 members in Nevada and another 320,000 people in senior and government programs throughout the United States. As a condition of approval from the Department of Justice, UnitedHealth Group was required to divest its individual SecureHorizons Medicare Advantage HMO plans in Clark and Nye Counties, which represent approximately 25,000 members. UnitedHealth Group reached an agreement to transition these members to Humana Inc., subject to customary closing conditions.[25]

In July 2009, UnitedHealth Group agreed to acquire Health Net's Northeast licensed subsidiaries for up to $570 million in payments spread out over two years.[26]


In July 2010, Ingenix acquired Picis, a health information provider for the high-acuity areas of hospitals.[27]

In 2011, Logistics Health, Inc. of La Crosse, Wisconsin, was acquired by OptumHealth[28] In September 2014 the office buildings where LHI is based were sold to UnitedHealth Group for $45 million.[29][30]

In February 2012, UnitedHealth Group completed the acquisition of XLHealth, a sponsor of Medicare Advantage health plans with a primary focus on medicare recipients with special needs such as those with chronic illness and those eligible for Medicaid ("dual eligibles").[31]

In October 2012, UnitedHealth Group and Amil Participações, one of the biggest Brazilian health insurance companies, completed the first phase of their merger.[32]

In February 2014, Optum secured a majority stake in the Washington, D.C.-based startup Audax Health.[5] Audax's CEO, Grant Verstandig, continued running the firm alongside COO David Ko.[5]

In October 2014, Optum Health acquired the health services unit of Alere for $600 million cash.[33]

In March 2015, it was announced that CatamaranRx will be acquired by OptumRx (A UnitedHealth Group company).[34]

In February 2017, UnitedHealth completed its acquisition of Rally Health,[citation needed] a company offering a gamified system for personal health management, started by the same executives as those associated with Audax Health, acquired in February 2014.[35] Prior to acquisition, in 2015, UnitedHealth supported Rally Health as a majority investor,[36] and through enrolling 5 million UnitedHealth policy holders in Rally Health's flagship product, RallySM.[35][37][nt 1] Around the time of the RallySM introduction to UnitedHealth policy holders, comedian Kevin Hart was hired as an advertising personality for Rally Health.[38] The close relations between UnitedHealth, Audax Health and Rally Health follows a close personal relationship between Grant Vrestandig (Audax and Rally) and UnitedHealth's President and CFO at the time, David Wichmann.[39]

In December 2017, UnitedHealth acquired DaVita Medical Group for $4.9 billion[40] and Banmédica for $2.8 billion.[41]


For the fiscal year 2018, UnitedHealth Group reported earnings of US$11.98 billion, with an annual revenue of US$226.2 billion.[42]

Year Revenue
in mil. USD$
Net income
in mil. USD$
Total Assets
in mil. USD$
Price per Share
in USD$
2005[43] 46,425 3,083 41,288 45.24
2006[44] 71,542 4,159 48,320 44.83
2007[45] 75,431 4,654 50,899 45.91
2008[46] 81,186 2,977 55,815 28.40
2009[47] 87,138 3,822 59,045 23.10
2010[48] 94,155 4,634 63,063 29.20
2011[49] 101,862 5,142 67,889 41.68
2012[50] 110,618 5,526 80,885 50.04
2013[51] 122,489 5,625 81,882 60.29 156,000
2014[52] 130,474 5,619 86,382 78.28 170,000
2015[53] 157,107 5,813 111,254 111.06 200,000
2016[54] 184,840 7,017 122,810 131.31 230,000
2017[55] 201,159 10,558 139,058 183.48 260,000
2018[42] 226,247 11,986 152,221 245.88 300,000

Health and government[edit]

In 2010, UnitedHealth Group spent more than $1.8 million on lobbying activities to work to achieve favorable legislation, and hired seven different lobbying firms to work on its behalf.[56] In addition, its corporate political action committee or PAC, called United for Health,[57] spent an additional $1 million on lobbying activities in 2010.[58]

QSSI, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, is one of the 55 contractors hired by United States Department of Health and Human Services to work on the HealthCare.gov web site[59]

Health Care reform[edit]

Through 2010 and into 2011, UnitedHealth senior executives have been meeting monthly with executives of leading health insurers to limit the effect of the health care reform law.[60]

In April 2016, UnitedHealth announced it was pulling out of all but a "handful" of state healthcare exchanges provided under ACA and will continue to sell only in three states in 2017.[61][62]

Legal issues[edit]

In 2006, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) began investigating the conduct of UnitedHealth Group's management and directors, for backdating of stock options. Investigations were also begun by the Internal Revenue Service and prosecutors in the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, who subpoenaed documents from the company. The investigations came to light after a series of probing stories in the Wall Street Journal in May 2006, discussing apparent backdating of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of stock options by UHC management. The backdating apparently occurred with the knowledge and approval of the directors, according to the Journal. Major shareholders have filed lawsuits accusing former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean and UHC's other directors of failing in their fiduciary duty.[63][64] On October 15, 2006, CEO William W. McGuire was forced to resign, and relinquish hundreds of millions of dollars in stock options. On December 6, 2007, the SEC announced a settlement under which McGuire will repay $468 million, as a partial settlement of the backdating prosecution. Legal actions filed by the SEC against UnitedHealth Group itself are still pending.[65]

In June 2006, the American Chiropractic Association filed a national class action lawsuit against the American Chiropractic Network (ACN), which is owned by UnitedHealth Group and administers chiropractic benefits, and against UnitedHealth Group itself, for alleged practices in violation of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).[66]

OptumInsight earlier known as Ingenix[edit]

In February 2008, New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced an industry-wide investigation into a scheme by health insurers to defraud consumers by manipulating reasonable and customary rates. The announcement included a statement that Cuomo intended "to file suit against Ingenix, Inc., its parent UnitedHealth Group, and three additional subsidiaries." Cuomo asserted that his investigation found that rates found in a database of health care charges maintained by Ingenix were lower than what he determined was the actual cost of certain medical expenses. Cuomo said this inappropriately allowed health insurance companies to deny a portion of provider claims, thereby pushing costs down to members. [67]

On January 13, 2009, Ingenix announced an agreement with the New York State attorney settling the probe into the independence of the health pricing database. Under the settlement, UnitedHealth Group and Ingenix would pay $50 million to finance a new, non-profit entity that would develop a new health care pricing database. Ingenix would discontinue its medical pricing databases when the new entity makes its product available. The company acknowledged the appearance of a conflict of interest, but admitted no wrongdoing.[68]

On January 15, 2009, UnitedHealth Group announced a $350 million settlement of three class action lawsuits filed in Federal court by the American Medical Association, UnitedHealth Group members, healthcare providers, and state medical societies for not paying out-of-network benefits. This settlement came two days after a similar settlement with Cuomo.[69]

On October 27, 2009, Cuomo announced the creation of FAIR Health, the independent, non-profit organization that will develop a nationwide database for consumer reimbursement, as well as a website where consumers will be able to compare prices before they choose doctors. To fund FAIR Health, the Attorney General's office secured nearly $100 million from insurers such as Aetna, UnitedHealth Group, and Anthem.[70]

Options backdating investigations and lawsuits[edit]

In 2006, the SEC began investigating the conduct of UnitedHealth Group's management and directors, including Dr. McGuire, as did the Internal Revenue Service and prosecutors in the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, who have subpoenaed documents from the company.

The investigations came to light after a series of probing stories in the Wall Street Journal in March 2006, discussing the apparent backdating of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of stock options—in a process called options backdating—by UnitedHealth Group management.[71] The backdating apparently occurred with the knowledge and approval of the directors, according to the Journal. Major shareholders have filed lawsuits accusing former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean and UnitedHealth Group's other directors of failing in their fiduciary duty.[63][72]

Resignation of McGuire[edit]

On October 15, 2006, it was announced that Dr. McGuire would step down immediately as chairman and director of UnitedHealth Group, and step down as CEO on December 1, 2006, due to his involvement in the employee stock options scandal. Simultaneously, it was announced that he would be replaced as CEO by Stephen Hemsley, who has served as President and COO and is a member of the board of directors.[73] McGuire's exit compensation from UnitedHealth, expected to be around $1.1 billion, would be the largest golden parachute in the history of corporate America.[74]

McGuire's compensation became controversial again on May 21, 2009, when Elizabeth Edwards, speaking on The Daily Show, used it to support her argument for a public alternative to commercial insurance.[75] Edwards stressed the importance of restoring competition in health insurance markets noting that at one point, "the President of UnitedHealth made so much money, that one of every $700 that was spent in this country on health care went to pay him." Since estimates of McGuire's 2005 compensation range from $59,625,444[76] to $124.8 million,[77] and the revenue of UnitedHealth Group was then $71 billion, it is therefore possible that Mrs. Edwards may have meant that one of every $700 that was spent on UnitedHealth Group premiums went to pay McGuire.

McGuire's settlement with SEC[edit]

On December 6, 2007, the SEC announced a settlement under which McGuire was to repay $468 million, including a $7 million civil penalty, as a partial settlement of the backdating prosecution. He was also barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company for ten years.[78][79][80] This was the first time in which the little-used "clawback" provision under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was used against an individual by the SEC. The SEC continued its investigations even after it in 2008 settled legal actions against both UnitedHealth Group itself and its former general counsel.[81]

Medicare overbilling lawsuit[edit]

A whistleblower lawsuit, filed in 2011, charges UnitedHealth Group's data analytics division with assisting in defrauding Medicare by boosting risk adjustment scores from Medicare Advantage companies. The suit alleges that UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Ingenix (now OptumInsight) "defrauded the United States of hundreds of millions — and likely billions — of dollars." Former UnitedHealth executive Benjamin Poehling brought the suit under the False Claims Act. The government said it would proceed on claims against two health care companies, UnitedHealth and its Texas subsidiary WellMed Medical Management. In February 2017, a federal judge unsealed the suit after the Department of Justice announced it would join the case.[82][83]

Richard Cole, and others v. United Healthcare[edit]

On April 29, 2019, Justice Robert N. Scola Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, a cancer survivor, recused himself from a case against United Healthcare, stating that the company's denial of treatment was "immoral and barbaric", and that his opinions regarding would prevent him from "deciding this case fairly and impartially."[84][85]

Policy Research Org. ownership[edit]

The Lewin Group is a policy research and consulting firm that provides economic analysis of health care and human services issues and policies.[86] The organization has existed for about 40 years and has maintained a nonpartisan reputation through its many ownership changes that have occurred over that time.[86] The Lewin Group was purchased in 2007 by Ingenix, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, but alleges editorial and analytical "independence" from UnitedHealth Group, its parent company.[86] The Lewin Group discloses its ownership in its reports and on its web site. While the Lewin Group does not advocate for or against any legislation, both Democratic and Republican politicians frequently cite the firm's studies to argue for and against various U.S. healthcare reform proposals.[87] For example, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden uses Lewin Group estimates to cite the feasibility of his Healthy Americans Act.[88] Former U.S. Representative Eric Cantor, the former House Republican Whip, has referred to the organization as "the nonpartisan Lewin Group" in arguing against government-funded health insurance proposals. Recently, several Lewin studies have been used to argue both for and against the inclusion of a public option in national health reform. Lewin clients who often cite its findings include The Commonwealth Fund which recently held up a Lewin study it commissioned to advocate for a public plan. The report showed that legislative proposals would achieve nearly universal coverage and "estimated that a public plan could offer small businesses insurance that is at least 9 percent cheaper than current small-business policies."[89] However, The Lewin Group has acknowledged that clients sometimes choose not to publicize the results of studies they have commissioned. Indeed, Lewin Group Vice President John Sheils told the Washington Post "sometimes studies come out that don't show exactly what the client wants to see. And in those instances, they have [the] option to bury the study."[90]


UnitedHealth Group has two foundations, the United Health Foundation and UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation which were formed in 1999. Since established by UnitedHealth Group in 1999 as a not for profit private foundation, the United Health Foundation has committed more than $170 million to improve health and health care.[91]


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  1. ^ Also referred to as RallySM. (Staff (February 3, 2015). "Rally Health Launches Digital Wellness Platform With Over 5M People". HIT Consultant. Retrieved January 21, 2019.)

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