UnitedHealth Group's Optum is reportedly in late-stage talks with AbleTo regarding a roughly $470 million acquisition of the virtual behavioral-care company, according to unnamed sources who spoke to CNBC.
Optum is already a stakeholder in the New York company, having provided a "significant investment" through its Optum Ventures arm back in January of 2019.
At the time, Optum Ventures Principal Stephen Renfro said in a statement that "AbleTo's behavioral health solutions have a meaningful effect on total cost of care, productivity and overall well-being,” and that his group was eager to work with AbleTo and "drive further innovative solutions.”
The $470 million price tag would place AbleTo's value around 10 times that of its forward revenue, the sources told CNBC. Founded in 2008, the company works with payers to provide individualized behavioral health programs, which include virtual sessions with live therapists, to members.
WHY IT MATTERS
News of the half-billion-dollar purchase plans comes as the telehealth market is experiencing unprecedented demand for its services. Nationwide shutdown and stay-at-home orders tied to the COVID-19 public health emergency have reduced individuals' access to behavioral health resources, and could also be fueling a greater need for such services.
Virtual programs like AbleTo's are poised to address these issues, and to do so while protecting providers and other healthcare workers from unnecessary exposure to coronavirus. While Optum would likely fold the company's business into its own collection of tech-driven healthcare services, the deal could also provide UnitedHealth Group's insurance businesses with a new behavioral health resource to offer their members.
THE LARGER TREND
UnitedHealth Group and Optum haven't been shying away from digital health acquisitions as of late. Late last year brought news that Optum had purchased Vivify Health, a remote patient-monitoring startup, for an undisclosed sum. Earlier that summer, UnitedHealthGroup acquired PatientsLikeMe, an online patient community portal, with the intent of folding the startup into its healthcare innovation research arm.
Interestingly, AbleTo has also been on the purchasing side of an M&A within the last year, as it had acquired a fellow virtual behavioral health company named Joyable in March 2019.