UnitedHealth under fire for buyout of exchange contractor

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UnitedHealth Group is facing increased pressure to disclose details about a potential conflict of interest regarding its recent purchase of IT company Quality Software Services Inc., which has a pivotal contract with the federal government to design its health insurance exchange.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) want UnitedHealth to disclose the steps it's taking to diffuse allegations that buying QSSI, which is building a database hub for health exchanges, will give the insurance company an unfair advantage when selling health plans through the federal exchange, reported The Hill's Healthwatch.

"This contract creates a situation whereby the exchange's ultimate designer, QSSI, is in a position to tailor the system to favor the interests of its parent company, UnitedHealth Group, and further maintain a monopoly over information that is unavailable to competitors," the lawmakers wrote in a Dec. 10 letter to UnitedHealth and QSSI.

In the letter, Grassley and Upton asked the companies several questions, including what mechanisms are in place to ensure QSSI operates independently from UnitedHealth and whether they have talked about the potential conflict of interest with federal officials, the Pioneer Press reported.

In response, UnitedHealth said it will work with lawmakers to answer their questions, the newspapers noted. "Putting our customers' secure and proprietary interests first is a hallmark of our service and has earned us the strong confidence and trust of those we serve every day," said spokesman Matt Stearns.

To learn more:
- here's the letter (.pdf)
- read the Pioneer Press article
- check out The Hill's Healthwatch article

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