Optum's behavioral health business: 5 things to know

UnitedHealth Group's Optum, the largest employer of physicians in the U.S., is expanding its reach in behavioral health. 

The company added 45,000  therapists, psychiatrists and behavioral health providers to its network in 2023, and it has more than 430,000 behavioral health clinicians in its network overall. 

Here are five things to know about Optum's behavioral health offerings: 

  1. The company is acquiring behavioral health clinics. Optum recently picked up Care Counseling, which employs more than 200 clinicians at 10 clinics in the Minneapolis area. In 2022, Optum acquired Refresh Mental Health, which operates more than 300 outpatient sites in 37 states.

  2. Optum's acquisitions of behavioral health providers have helped cut wait times for patients, Optum CEO Heather Cianfrocco said in May.

    "On average it takes over 50 to 60 days to get an appointment for high-quality behavioral care," she said. "We started acquiring our own behavioral providers to be able to reduce that access issue." 

  3. The company is also targeting in-home behavioral care. In December 2023, Amar Desai, MD, CEO of Optum Health, said the company had integrated behavioral care into its home health offerings.

    "As a practicing physician, I am particularly excited that we are becoming the practice and partner of choice in the marketplace," Dr. Desai said of the business.

  4. Optum also administers behavioral health benefits systems for states, though it recently lost contracts to manage programs in Maryland and Idaho.

  5. OptumRx, a pharmaceutical benefit manager, provides medication management for behavioral health, substance use disorder and other complex drugs for more than 1 million people each year.

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