Former UnitedHealth CEO: Change data 'could' help insurance division

Former UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann defended Optum's proposed acquisition of Change Healthcare for $13.8 billion on the fourth day of a trial brought forth by a Justice Department challenge of the deal and said misuse of data could happen, though it's unlikely, Law360 reported Aug. 4.

Mr. Wichmann, who oversaw the deal's development, said company policies would not be able to prevent all potential abuses of data, but added those concerns are "entirely without merit."

"There's always the potential for a bad actor," Mr. Wichmann said. He testified that he has no knowledge of UnitedHealth divisions sharing data among one another and said the company's strict protocols have kept any data abuse issues as "extremely isolated instances." The retired CEO admitted that Optum does have access to other payers' data, but it does not make financial or business sense for Optum to lose payers as clients to give UnitedHealthcare an edge.

"You would breach trust and confidence with the market," Mr. Wichmann said. "Optum is wired to serve all."

The Justice Department is arguing that if the deal is approved, it would harm commercial competition, raise healthcare costs and give UnitedHealthcare too much power in electronic data transactions by using Change's data to look at other payers' claims editing processes. 

Upon approval, UnitedHealth did commit to selling Change's claims editing business, ClaimsXten, to TPG Capital for $2.2 billion to resolve concerns of anticompetitive behavior.

DOJ attorneys supported their argument by showing evidence of Mr. Wichmann's former idea to rebrand UnitedHealth Group as Optum and demonstrated he had once said Change's data was the most valuable part of a potential acquisition.

The DOJ also argued data abuse can happen because it is common for executives to move across company divisions, and employees that leave for other companies cannot unlearn the information they received while employed at UnitedHealth.

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