UnitedHealth buying 2,300 doctors

The number of insurer-provider business relationships just keeps on growing as UnitedHealth Group announced it's acquiring one of California's largest physicians groups.

The deal demonstrates how insurers are increasingly competing with hospitals in a "land grab" for doctors to coordinate care, Bernstein analyst Ana Gupte told the Associated Press. "We expect more such deals to be consummated across the industry, as the move to health cost containment becomes a fiscal imperative," she said.

With the purchase, UnitedHealth's health services unit OptumHealth will handle non-clinical operations at Monarch HealthCare, an Irvine,Calif.-based group of more than 2,300 independent physicians, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The move also positions OptumHealth as a formidable presence in the Southern California region, adding Monarch to its previous takeover of two smaller groups, AppleCare Medical Group and Memorial HealthCare Independent Practice Association, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Although California prohibits insurers from directly employing doctors, UnitedHealth will still be able to handle contracts with other health plans, cut checks to doctors for services they provide, and make decisions about IT investments.

To learn more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article
- see the Minneapolis Star Tribune article
- check out the Associated Press article

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