UnitedHealth to buy DaVita primary care unit for $4.9 billion

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UnitedHealth Group Inc. will buy DaVita Inc.'s physician group for about $4.9 billion in cash, in the latest sign of how the parent of the biggest US insurer is rapidly expanding its role as a health-care provider.

DaVita's unit had $4.1 billion of revenue past year and an operating loss of $104 million. The insurer will acquire almost 300 clinics that serve about 1.7 million patients, as well as 35 urgent-care centers and six surgery centers. DaVita's kidney dialysis unit is not included in the deal.

UnitedHealth did not provide any details on the financial impact of the purchase.

6 it had agreed to buy DaVita's physician-network business for $4.9 billion.

UnitedHealth has said Optum aims to provide primary care and ambulatory services in 75 markets, representing about two-thirds of the US population.

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UnitedHealth's deal for one of the nation's biggest doctor groups, coming the same week as pharmacy giant CVS Health Corp. sealed its $69 billion deal to buy insurer Aetna Inc., underscores how health-care companies are forging deeper into segments outside their traditional core businesses. While the combination with CVS allows Aetna to experiment with providing medical care in a retail setting, insurers are also looking to partner directly with doctors and health systems. It operates in states including California, Washington and Florida. The clinics offer much of the same care available at a hospital emergency room but at a reduced cost.

Optum also runs its own primary and urgent care centers, surgery centers, and senior and advanced care centers. The company expects to perform roughly 1 million surgeries and other procedures this year.

While these new partnerships promise to change how people get care by marshaling better information about patients and steering them to less expensive and more convenient places, whether an urgent-care clinic or drugstore, delivering on that promise may prove challenging.

UnitedHealth bought Surgical Care Affiliates for about $2.3 billion in March.

Thiry said that DaVita will continue to focus on its USA and global kidney care businesses and plans to pursue other investments in healthcare services outside of kidney care.

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