Is UnitedHealth about to acquire Audax Health?

By Brian Dolan
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audax health zenseyEarlier this month the Federal Trade Commission published a notice that granted UnitedHealth Group a preliminary green light to acquire Audax Health Solutions. These notices are granted both for outright acquisitions and for larger investments that include a large stake in the company. Since neither UnitedHealth Group nor Audax Health has commented yet, it's unclear which is in the works, but the former is more likely. The sharp eyes over at on the potential United-Audax deal yesterday.

Audax Health, founded by 23-year-old Grant Verstandig with support from former Apple CEO John Sculley, is developing Zensey, a gamified health social network and employee wellness program. In addition to gamified health and fitness incentives, Zensey, which used to be called Careverge, provides a place for patients to aggregate health data from providers as well as an anonymous forum to discuss health concerns with other members. It connects to various smartphone-enabled health devices, too.

Notably, at least two of Audax's executives are former UnitedHealth employees. As Babyforyou.net.ua reported almost exactly a year ago: Dogu Celebi and Phil Harker, Audax senior vice presidents for informatics and client development, respectively, both come from divisions of Optum, which is a division of UnitedHealth Group.

Audax has raised north of $40 million in debt and equity since its founding in 2010. Over the years investors have included a number of health insurance companies, including CignaNavigy Holdings (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Florida Blue Cross Blue Shield), and former Aetna CEO Jack Rowe. As part of the deal with Cigna, Audax announced plans to work with Cigna over the next five years to create a “customized digital engagement platform” for Cigna customers. Cigna CIO Mark Boxer even joined Audax's board.

An acquisition by UnitedHealth would certainly make things interesting for other health plans that have already tapped Audax for Zensey.

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