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The Busy Bees at the Antitrust Division
Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Jonathan Kanter gets a lot less attention than Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan. But he is up to a bang-up start.
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Yesterday, Jim Cramer started talking about the new Antitrust Division chief, Jonathan Kanter. He was my choice for the position, and so far, his tenure, which started three months ago, is going quite well.
A few hours later, the New York Times came out with this story: Justice Dept. Sues to Block $13 Billion Deal by UnitedHealth Group
The merger challenge is a big deal, with the Department of Justice Antitrust Division filing to prohibit the merger of UnitedHealth’s Optum and Change Healthcare. UnitedHealth is one of the biggest health insurers, pharmacy benefit managers, and physician practices in America. Change has a database of all health claims, and helps facilitate payments between insurers and providers. A merger between the two would have created the ‘big tech’ of health care, as Krista Brown and Olivia Webb wrote last year.
If permitted to go through, Optum’s acquisition of Change would fundamentally alter both the health data landscape and the balance of power in American health care. UnitedHealth, the largest health care corporation in the U.S., would have access to all of its competitors’ business secrets. It would be able to self-preference its own doctors. It would be able to discriminate, racially and geographically, against different groups seeking insurance. None of this will improve public health; all of it will improve the profits of Optum and its corporate parent.
It’s important that the DOJ is suing to block this one, which is the equivalent of the catastrophic Google-DoubleClick merger in 2007.
There’s more that the DOJ Antitrust Division is doing. Today they filed a statement in court against non-compete agreements forced on two thirds of the anesthesiologists in Northern Nevada. Non-competes cover 30-40 million Americans, and this is part of a campaign to get rid of these indentured servitude style contracts. Last week, the Antitrust Division announced a wholesale global investigation of supply chain market power problems, in conjunction with allies abroad.
That’s a LOT. Antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter is doing a good job so far.