UnitedHealth Group is acquiring a large Seattle-based clinic for primary and specialty care that further expands the Minnetonka-based company’s growing business that provides care directly to patients.
Chief Executive David Wichmann told investors meeting Tuesday in New York that the deal to purchase Polyclinic will supplement the Everett Clinic business in the Seattle area that UnitedHealth is acquiring through a separate deal for DaVita Medical Group.
Wichmann did not disclose financial terms. In December 2017, UnitedHealth’s Optum division for health care services announced a $4.9 billion deal to acquire DaVita Medical Group, although the acquisition still hasn’t closed.
“We are building the nation’s first comprehensive, next generation, primary and ambulatory care system,” Wichmann said Tuesday.
UnitedHealth Group operates UnitedHealthcare, which is the nation’s largest health insurer, and the health services business called Optum, which includes patient care, IT consulting and pharmaceutical benefits management (PBM).
The company’s push into the clinic business fits with a broader trend among the nation’s largest health insurers to dabble in patient care via physician practices and pharmacies.
Connecticut-based health insurance giant Aetna is reportedly close to closing its $69 billion merger with Rhode Island-based CVS, which is both a large PBM and operator of retail pharmacies. The health insurer Cigna is pursuing a merger with St. Louis-based Express Scripts, which is the nation’s largest PBM.
Health insurers Anthem, Centene and Humana all have made smaller moves to get into the clinic business. Beyond DaVita Medical Group and the new Seattle-based clinic, the UnitedHealth Group business called OptumCare includes roughly a dozen large clinics that operate in 10 states.
In Florida and Texas, an OptumCare group called WellMed manages care and risk for 370,000 Medicare patients, said Andrew Witty, the Optum chief executive, during Tuesday’s investor conference. In New Jersey, Optum’s Riverside Medical Group serves 230,000 patients, Witty said.
At the end of 2017, DaVita Medical Group managed 280 medical clinics including 24 in the state of Washington, according to a regulatory filing. The acquisition of Polyclinic would give Optum “a significant medical footprint in metropolitan Seattle that includes a multispecialty group composed of over 200 doctors in close to 40 different specialties located in some 12 offices,” said Corey Johnson, a vice president with the physician search and consulting firm Merritt Hawkins, in a statement.
In May, Wichmann said that UnitedHealth Group has a goal over the next decade of entering and building out care delivery operations in 75 targeted markets that serve 60 percent of the U.S. population. The plan involves OptumCare’s growing network of urgent care and surgery centers, as well.
In June, a rating agency reported that UnitedHealth Group was part of a $2.2 billion deal to acquire a controlling interest in a physician-staffing company based in Washington state called Sound Inpatient Physician Holdings LLC.
UnitedHealth didn’t comment on the deal at the time, but Optum Chief Financial Officer Tim Wicks said Tuesday that Sound Physicians is “a growing 2,500 physician practice that manages care for patients in hospitals and post-acute settings.”
“Sound gets patients home earlier and healthier — decreasing the length of hospital stays by 15 percent,” Wicks said, “and saving more than $13,000 every time a patient avoids readmission.”