Although leaders at UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) were relatively quiet about the deal for its Optum arm to acquire Amedisys Inc. (Nasdaq: AMED) during a Friday Q2 earnings call, they did touch on the high-level strategic fit.
In fact, UnitedHealth Group CEO Andrew Witty doubled down on his company’s focus and investment in the home health space.
“As you’d expect, we’re now in the very early stages of that process, and it wouldn’t be appropriate to talk about anything specific in that regard, but it’s no secret that we’re very strong believers in the value of home health,” Witty said during Friday’s call.
Last month, Amedisys Inc. and Optum – the diversified health care services arm of UnitedHealth Group — came to an agreement to combine. The deal includes Optum purchasing Amedisys in an all-cash transaction for $101 per share.
That figure puts a roughly $3.3 billion price tag on Amedisys.
Optum previously made a bid to buy Amedisys in an all-cash transaction for $100 per share and, in doing so, outbid Option Care Health (Nasdaq: OPCH).
That deal — which would have been completed through a combination of cash and stock — valued Amedisys’ stock at $97.38 per share.
“It’s no secret that we believe that home health capabilities, when combined with other activities in terms of wrapping care around patients, is a really important element of the future of value-based care,” Witty continued.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based Amedisys provides home health, hospice and higher-acuity care services across 522 locations in 37 states and the District of Columbia.
In part, UnitedHealth Group’s commitment to home health is tied to providers’ ability to handle the complexity of today’s patients safely in the home. Being able to create touch points in the home additionally gives UnitedHealth Group an ability to better evaluate social determinants of health (SDoH) and potentially bring other services into the fold to avoid costly hospitalizations or trips to the ER.
Complex patients often struggle to see their care providers in a clinic setting, which makes a home-based care approach critical for UnitedHealth Group and Optum.
“We do think that the general area is an important area, as I said,” Witty explained. “As far as the specifics are concerned [around Amedisys], I think we’ll now go through our regular kind of process and, you know, we’ll update you as appropriate. But probably not much more to say today.”
UnitedHealth Group’s Optum acquired Amedisys competitor LHC Group in February.
The number of patients served by Optum under fully accountable value-based care arrangements grew by more than 900,000 year-over-year.
“Many [of those patients with complex needs] struggle to get out of the home and maybe don’t have quite the same kind of relationship with the clinic as you might often expect,” Witty said. “Among the new patients we welcomed, a significant number have complex needs. These people have serious health challenges, limited economic resources and often live in communities where it can be difficult to access high-quality care.”
UnitedHealth Group’s ability to support their needs is a “distinctive and a direct result” of the investments it has made to provide coordinated and comprehensive medical, pharmacy and behavioral care,” he added.
Witty was also eager to share the findings of a peer-reviewed study conducted by Yale Medicine and Optum that centered around in-home.
The study found that patients that received Optum’s in-home preventative wellness assessments compared with those who hadn’t made fewer emergency department visits and spent fewer nights in hospitals across four common conditions: depression, hypertension, coronary artery disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Patients also experienced reduced wait times for follow-up primary care visits.
Witty also cited another study that found Medicare Advantage patients in Optum’s fully accountable care model showed significantly better health outcomes compared to people in Medicare fee-for-service.
“Optum Health patients fared better on each of eight key metrics, including hospital readmissions and emergency department visits,” Witty said. “We see these results as a compelling validation of the value-based care approach and signals more strongly its promise and potential as we expand these care models to many millions more patients in the years ahead.”
Revenue for UnitedHealth Group was $92.9 billion for the second quarter in 2023, a 16% increase year-over-year.
Optum revenues grew by 25% to $56.3 billion and operating earnings grew 13% to $3.7 billion. That revenue spike was driven by “an increase in the number of patients served, a growing mix of patients with more complex needs and the expanding scope of care services we can offer,” UnitedHealth Group CFO John Rex said during the call.