UnitedHealth Adds to NCAA President Charlie Baker’s Antitrust Troubles

NCAA president Charlie Baker will likely face another antitrust lawsuit, but this time it won’t have anything to do with college sports.

On Wednesday, Wall Street Journal announced that the Federal Trade Commission is preparing to file a lawsuit against UnitedHealth Group and the corporations that own two other pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) — Cigna and CVS Health — over alleged price fixing related to the sale of insulin and other drugs.

In November, the NCAA president and former Massachusetts governor was named to the 10-member UnitedHealth Group board of directors, with board chairman Stephen J. Hemsley praising Baker’s “leadership and extensive health care experience” before he became NCAA governor. Before becoming governor, Baker was CEO of nonprofit health benefits company Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

United is the largest health insurer in the United States, with revenue of about $281.4 billion last year. In 2015, it acquired a PBM, OptumRX, which now fills about 22% of prescriptions in the U.S.

“UnitedHealth Group is uniquely positioned to improve healthcare outcomes, lower costs and enhance the experience for both patients and providers,” Baker said in a statement at the time of his appointment to the board.

But that doesn’t appear to be the case with federal regulators, at least when it comes to United’s Optum Health subsidiary, which itself reported revenue of $95.3 billion in 2023. Earlier this week, the FTC released an interim staff report detailing findings of how the nation’s largest PBMs are “raising drug costs and reducing the number of high-street pharmacies.”

UnitedHealth Group is the only publicly known board position Baker currently holds. Documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission show Baker received 469 deferred shares of United stock — worth about $233,000 — as compensation for his service on the company’s board.

Over the past two years, United’s operations have come under increased scrutiny from federal and congressional authorities.

In April, the company disclosed that cybercriminals had infiltrated its Change Healthcare subsidiary and stolen a “significant portion” of its customers’ personal and health information. The following month, during a Senate Finance Committee hearing, Chairman Ron Wyden ridiculed United for previously citing Baker when asked who on its board had cybersecurity experience.

“Mr. Baker is certainly a basketball expert, but UHG needs a real cybersecurity expert on its board,” Wyden said.

Baker does have some potentially significant experience dealing with price-fixing allegations, however, having recently negotiated settlements in three antitrust lawsuits against the NCAA. Baker did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent to an NCAA spokesman.

While Baker was serving as NCAA president, his predecessor, Mark Emmert, also served on the boards of pharmaceutical services provider Omnicare Inc., timber company Weyerhaeuser and Washington-based global logistics company Expeditors International.