UnitedHealth to buy LHC Group for $5.4 billion

UnitedHealth Group is spending about $5.4 billion to delve deeper into home health care with the acquisition of LHC Group.

The health care giant said today that it will pay $170 in cash for each share of LHC’s stock in a deal expected to close later this year.

UnitedHealth, which runs the nation’s largest health insurer, will add LHC Group to its Optum Health business, which operates primary care clinics and surgery centers.

LHC Group provides in-home health and hospice care to patients dealing with injuries, illnesses or chronic conditions. The Lafayette, Louisiana, company has 964 locations in 37 states.

Health insurers and other payers have been emphasizing home-based care more in recent years, a trend fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Technology improvements also allow for more care to be provided at home, and payers see the practice as a good alternative to expensive stays in hospitals or care centers when possible.

Last year, UnitedHelath rival and Medicare Advantage provider Humana spent $5.7 billion to expand its home health business.

Regulators and LHC Group shareholders still need to approve the acquisition.

Shares of LHC Group jumped 7% in premarket trading.