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UnitedHealth purchase of Helios will tap workers comp growth areas

UnitedHealth purchase of Helios will tap workers comp growth areas

UnitedHealth Group Inc.'s acquisition of workers compensation pharmacy benefit manager Helios will help the health insurer grow by expanding its offerings in the pharmaceutical space, an analyst says.

OptumRx Inc., UnitedHealth's PBM unit, acquired Helios on Jan. 15, spokespeople for the companies confirmed Wednesday.

While terms of the deal were not disclosed, Bloomberg reported it could be worth up to $1.7 billion.

Sarah James, a health care equity research analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc. in Los Angeles, said Wednesday that the Helios purchase could help OptumRx and UnitedHealth tap growth in the workers comp sector.

“We believe there is a proven economic benefit in integrating workers compensation with broader health benefits to create a holistic approach for caring for the member,” Ms. James said in an emailed statement to Business Insurance. “We also believe United and other insurers benefit from expanding their PBM product given the projected growth in the specialty pharmaceutical industry.”

A spokeswoman for Memphis, Tennessee-based Helios said Wednesday that Helios' current leadership and account management teams will remain in place after the acquisition.

A spokesman for Minnetonka, Minnesota-based OptumRX said Helios will be folded into Optum's existing workers comp and auto no-fault PBM business.

The deal between OptumRX and Helios adds to both firms' acquisitions.

Last July, OptumRX acquired Catamaran Corp. for $12.8 billion, making OptumRX the third-largest PBM based on prescription volume.

Helios was established effective August 2014 following the merger of two workers comp PBMs, Progressive Medical Inc. and PMSI Inc.

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