After a century of independence, Seattle-based Polyclinic is absorbed by UnitedHealth’s OptumCare

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UnitedHealth CEO David Wichmann said The Polyclinic is "geographically complementary" to DaVita Health's Everett Clinic. (Pixabay)

UnitedHealth is continuing its provider acquisition spree, purchasing a large multispecialty physician group in Seattle that had remained staunchly independent for more than century.

During Tuesday’s investor meeting, UnitedHealth CEO David Wichmann said the company signed an agreement to acquire The Polyclinic, with a dozen locations in greater Seattle. Wichmann described the group, which includes nearly 240 physicians and advanced practice clinicians, as “geographically complementary” to DaVita Medical Group’s Everett Clinic.

He did not disclose the financials of the Polyclinic acquisition. The practice will be absorbed into OptumCare.

UnitedHealth announced it was buying DaVita Medical Group for $4.9 billion a year ago. Wichmann said the company is “actively working” to close that deal “as quickly as possible.” The acquisition has been held up by questions from the Federal Trade Commission.

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Founded in 1917, The Polyclinic has remained physician-owned and independent for more than 100 years. That independence has become the group’s staple. A description (PDF) of its history says that the Polyclinic “continues to stay true to its independent roots.”

“Here at The Polyclinic, our physicians are in charge,” the practice’s website says. “This means they have the power to put you first. It’s a departure in healthcare philosophy that has attracted some of the area’s most respected physicians. And a difference you’ll feel the moment you walk through the door.”

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The Polyclinic remained independent even as most private practices were being gobbled up by health systems and insurers over the last several years.

But Optum spokesperson Lauren Mihajlov said the group's structure will remain largely the same.

"By partnering with OptumCare, The Polyclinic will bolster its ability to grow and expand in the Puget Sound region and enhance care quality and efficiency with access to advanced data analytics capabilities," she said. "Upon regulatory approval, The Polyclinic will retain its name and continue to be locally operated. The Polyclinic’s workforce, including physicians, staff and management, will not change and the medical group will continue to serve patients through multiple insurance plans."

A Polyclinic spokesperson did not return a request for comment.

UnitedHealth, in particular, has been slowly stockpiling provider groups. In addition to DaVita, the insurance giants spent $2.2 billion in June to acquire the Washington-based hospitalist staffing firm from Fresenius. Currently, UnitedHealth’s OptumCare features more than 30,000 physicians. Adding DaVita’s would bring that total to more than 40,000, making it one of the largest physician employers in the country.