Federal prosecutors are looking into whether pharmacy benefits manager Medco Health Solutions paid UnitedHealth Group a kickback of more than $200 million in 1998 for the health insurer's business. In documents filed late last month in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, the Justice Department said it had deposed one executive from an unnamed "large managed-care organization" about the matter and asked a judge for more time to depose a second executive. The individuals were since identified as working for UnitedHealth, which is Medco's largest client accounting for $6.1 billion, or 18%, of Medco's revenue last year, regulatory filings show.
Medco and UnitedHealth denied wrongdoing. "There has been no improper payment between UnitedHealth and Medco," UnitedHealth said. "We've had a market-based relationship in effect since 2000, and this relationship has been developed on a series of good-faith, arm's-length and often hard-fought negotiations." The investigation is part of a larger lawsuit that the Justice Department filed against Medco in September 2003 alleging that the PBM defrauded patients, customers and the federal government to maximize profits. -- by Laura B. Benko