The Pentagon rebuked UnitedHealth Group Inc., the nation’s largest insurer, after military families began experiencing long delays getting medical-care referrals from the company.

The backlogs occurred almost as soon as Minnetonka, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth took over a contract, valued as much as $20.5 billion, from TriWest Healthcare Alliance Corp. It assumed responsibility on April 1 for the western region of the military’s health-care system, known as Tricare.

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