UnitedHealth CEO: Refresh Mental Health Acquisition ‘Fits Right Into Value-Based Proposition’

Managing behavioral health in tandem with medical issues is at the core of UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s (NYSE: UNH) value-based care strategy.

The company’s recent acquisition of Jacksonville Beach, Florida-based Refresh Mental Health is emblematic of the company’s approach to value-based care, CEO Sir Andrew Witty said Thursday on United’s Q1 2022 earnings call.

“Refresh Mental Health … fits right into that value-based proposition in terms of how we believe we need to bring behavioral health management alongside medical management,” Witty said.


Near the end of March, news broke that UnitedHealth Group’s health services division Optum acquired the fast growing outpatient mental health provider. Terms of the deal have not yet been revealed nor was the deal announced publicly by either company.

Several people have told BHB on background that the purchase price was over $1 billion.

Refresh Mental Health increases UnitedHealth’s behavioral health presence, which also includes ownership or investment in companies such as AbleTo and Mindstrong. Refresh also “complements super nicely our largest behavioral health network that we already have across the country from the benefit side of the business,” Witty said. 


The Refresh Mental Health deal — and the to-be-closed deal to acquire the national home health care provider LHC Group (Nasdaq: LHCG) for about $5.4 billion — enhance the insurance giant’s ability to merge different portions of the care spectrum into one accessible platform for patients. 

“Our approach focuses on providing quality care in the setting that makes the most sense for the patients we serve,” Witty said.

At the time of the LHC Group deal announcement, UnitedHealth highlighted LHC Group’s large home health care footprint and its care coordination capabilities as complements to its existing services, including behavioral health, in terms of value-based care.

Witty offered these thoughts in response to a question about UnitedHealth Group’s approach to M&A. He declined to comment on specifics of future deals but said that the company’s pipeline is deeper than ever.

The deals that Optum and UnitedHealth Group pursue will fit into the company’s five strategic focuses — value-based care in its health care operations, innovation and greater value-based care use in its insurance business, health technology, streamlining its financial services and pharmacy services, Witty said.

Dr. Wyatt Decker, the CEO of Optum Health, said the company’s approach to value-based care has progressed over time. The company’s care delivery model at the local level includes its employed physicians but also affiliated and contracted physicians along with the several offerings that Optum has to offer.

“Our thinking and, frankly, the practice of value-based medicine is evolving as we’re able to go into the home, provide virtual care and behavioral care and comprehensive services even that overcome things like social determinants,” Decker said, adding that bringing all of Optum’s services to bear in a market makes care more affordable and more convenient.

“That’s a differentiator in the marketplace,” he said.

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