US drops appeal of UnitedHealth acquisition of Change Healthcare

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WASHINGTON, March 21 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department has dismissed its own appeal challenging UnitedHealth Group's nearly $8 billion acquisition last year of Change Healthcare, a court filing showed.

The healthcare deal was seen as a blow to the Biden administration's tougher enforcement of antitrust issues.

The Justice Department had argued the deal would give UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. health insurer, access to its competitors' data and ultimately push up healthcare costs.

UnitedHealth announced the deal in January 2021, saying it would help streamline administrative and payment processes. The Justice Department filed a lawsuit last February to stop the acquisition over antitrust concerns.

A U.S. judge denied the department's bid in September, paving the way for the October completion of the all-cash deal. The department then appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia.

A court filing from Monday said the parties had agreed the appeal be voluntarily dismissed, without providing details.

The Justice Department did not immediately provide comment on Tuesday on why it had dropped the appeal.

UnitedHealth shares were up 0.2% at $478.09.

(Reporting by Rami Ayyub Editing by Bill Berkrot)