Optum, a part of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), has reportedly reached a deal to acquire in-home medical group Landmark Health.
Rumors of such a deal between UnitedHealth and Landmark come from M&A intelligence service Mergermarket, which cited “four sources familiar with the situation.” Landmark declined a request for comment from Home Health Care News, which was unable to independently confirm Mergermarket’s report.
UnitedHealth and Optum did not respond to HHCN’s request for comment.
The Huntington Beach, California-based Landmark is a comprehensive, in-home medical care company focused on the sickest and frailest populations. Overall, Landmark’s physician-led teams currently care for tens of thousands of patients in 17 states, working alongside individuals’ existing health care providers.
Founded in 2014, Landmark is also one of 51 entities that have signed up for the new “global” and “professional” direct-contracting models from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). While the company has traditionally had to operate in the Medicare Advantage landscape, direct contracting gives it access to fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries for the very first time, drastically expanding its potential reach.
Other direct-contracting entities include in-home care organizations such as Lifesprk, Oak Street Health, VillageMD and several others.
“We see this as something that allows legacy health systems and medical groups, as well as newer entrants like Landmark, to be able to bring new innovative models of care to the market,” Chris Johnson, vice president of corporate strategy and development for Landmark, told HHCN in December. “We see it as something that will measure us and reward us on our ability to improve outcomes and reduce the overall cost of care for patient populations, without being beholden to the traditional fee-for-service payment system.”
Acquiring a company like Landmark makes strategic sense for UnitedHealth and its population health-focused Optum, especially as more and more health care services are shifted into the home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann elaborated on the importance of “the home” during a Jan. 20 conference call to discuss fourth quarter financial results.
“As the pandemic disrupted care patterns, we all saw the increased need to enhance in-home and alternative settings of care, offering patients [the ability] to receive safe, effective and efficient care outside of traditional venues,” Wichmann said. “However, the need for in-home care will continue to grow well beyond the current environment.”
Roughly “80% of what impacts a person’s health” happens outside of traditional health care settings, the CEO noted.
Optum’s rumored deal values Landmark at about $3.5 billion, according to Mergermarket, which claimed the transaction “is still undergoing regulatory review.”
On a high level, any kind of deal between Landmark and UnitedHealth would advance the narrative of payers increasingly turning into providers. Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) has been one of the biggest examples of that trend, reflected in its billion-dollar moves to add Kindred at Home and Curo Health Services just a few years ago.
Apart from Mergermarket, no other news outlets have reported on any UnitedHealth-Landmark acquisition rumors.
However, a legal complaint filed against Landmark by a former executive in late 2020 does make mention of an “imminent” sale.
Additional reporting by Robert Holly.