UnitedHealth Group Expands Behavioral Health Network by 25%

UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) revealed it has expanded its behavioral health network by 25% over the last “couple of years” – and is continuing to prioritize the space in the future.

The large payer conglomerate is growing its behavioral clinical practices that are owned and operated by its health service division Optum, UnitedHealth Group COO Dirk McMahon said during the company’s Q3 earnings call.

“As many of you know, behavioral health is a [24/7] challenge,” McMahon said. “So we are continuing to expand our portfolio of digital offerings supporting a range of needs, allowing patients to get rich resources when they need them. We’ve also made significant improvements to help consumers access vital information more easily through improved navigation tools. Guiding consumers to the appropriate condition-specific level of behavioral health is a challenge we are prioritizing.”


Optum saw a massive increase in telehealth appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, in February, the company reported a 130% increase in virtual behavioral health visits compared to pre-pandemic levels.

It has also expanded its behavioral health footprint through acquisitions. Earlier this year, Optum purchased outpatient behavioral health provider Refresh for what some sources say was over $1 billion. The exact sum wasn’t disclosed.

“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,” UnitedHealth Group CEO Sir Andrew Witty said during a Q1 earnings call.


The company has also inked a number of deals with digital behavioral health startups. For example, in September, Optum announced a deal with youth mental health startup Hopscotch, bringing the digital tool in-network.

“Behavioral health plays an integral role in the overall health and well-being of the people we serve,” McMahon said. “So you will all continue to see us increasing access, quality and affordability in this clinically important and sensitive area.”

The payer is looking to integrate behavioral health into the larger continuum of care. Specifically, UnitedHealth is looking to improve holistic care at home, according to McMahon.

“We know that at-home care settings, especially for people with mobility challenges and highly complex health needs, can improve outcomes, elevate patient experience and result in better care,” McMahon said. “So we bring together teams with medical, behavioral and palliative experience in addition to our home-infusion capabilities of OptumRx.”

In Q3, UnitedHealth Group reported revenues of $80.9 billion, growing 12% year-over-year. The company reported $5.55 in net earnings per share and $5.79 in adjusted earnings per share.

UnitedHealth Group isn’t the only payer that is seeing enormous growth in the behavioral health segment. Cigna Corp.’s (NYSE: CI) health services segment, Evernorth, announced its behavioral health network has more than doubled in size over the past five years during a Q2 earnings call.

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