UnitedHealth Buys Major Doctors Group seeing as Lines Blur in HEALTHCARE

The possible threat of new rivals like Amazon entering the pharmacy business and technology companies delivering medical care through cellphones has led former adversaries to become partners, traveling insurers to synergy with hospitals and doctors’ groups. They are seeking to provide care in novel methods, outside the costly setting of a medical center. While the combo with CVS permits Aetna to experiment with providing medical care in a retail setting, insurers are also seeking to partner directly with doctors and health systems.

Through its Optum unit, which operates a large pharmacy benefit manager and will be offering a wide array of health care services, UnitedHealth Group has become the diversified and the most successful of the large insurers.

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The acquisition of DaVita Medical Group, which includes such visible organizations as Health care Partners and the Everett Clinic, may be the latest maneuver by UnitedHealth to expand into the realm of delivering medical care as a means of reducing costs. The business already operates medical practices in Southern California and elsewhere, and it owns practically 250 MedExpress urgent-care clinics. The clinics offer much of the same treatment available at a hospital emergency room but at a reduced cost.

Last January, UnitedHealth likewise acquired a chain of surgery centers, a maneuver the company reported could lower the trouble of experiencing an outpatient surgery by more than 50 percent. The business expects to perform roughly 1 million surgeries and other procedures this year.

Insurers are increasingly dealing with doctors and hospitals, tinkering with different methods of paying for care and attempting to provide better oversight of potentially expensive chronic conditions like diabetes or heart failure.

While these new partnerships assurance to change how persons get care, by marshaling better information about people and steering them to less costly and more convenient areas, whether an urgent-care clinic or drugstore, delivering on that assurance may well prove challenging. DaVita, which bought HealthCare Companions five years back in an effort to become a major participant in the treatment of individuals with chronic conditions, discovered itself struggling to generate income on its medical group. In describing the group’s latest quarterly financial effects, DaVita’s chief executive, Kent J. Thiry, explained these were “extremely disappointing.”

Consumers may possibly also see their selection of doctor or pharmacy sharply limited under these arrangements while insurers try to steer patients into the groups over that they have got the most control. Both Aetna and UnitedHealth insist their target is to build up a new style of care which will be available to persons outside their respective health ideas, and Optum says it right now works with more than 80 health plans.

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