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January 12, 2017

Why UnitedHealth Group is paying $2.3B for an outpatient surgery chain

Daily Briefing

UnitedHealth Group on Monday announced that its health services unit Optum has agreed to acquire Surgical Care Affiliates (SCA) for about $2.3 billion, marking the company's latest step to diversify its offerings.

UnitedHealth's business model includes insurance, pharmacy-benefits management, consulting services, and now surgery care.

Acquisition details

Optum would acquire SCA for $57 per share, with between 51 and 80 percent paid in stock and the rest in cash. The deal is expected to close in the first six months of 2017.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the acquisition "substantially expands the health care provider footprint of UnitedHealth." UnitedHealth said Optum aims to provide primary care and ambulatory services in 75 markets, which account for roughly two-thirds of the U.S. population. As of November 2016, Optum had clinical practices in 26 markets.

Under the acquisition, Optum would add to its footprint SCA's 205 surgical facilities, which SCA operates in partnership with thousands of surgeons in 33 states. In total, SCA serves about one million patients annually.

The acquisition makes SCA part of the OptumCare platform, a primary and urgent care delivery service that works with more than 80 health plans.

Larry Renfro, vice chair of UnitedHealth and CEO of Optum, in a statement said, "Combining SCA and OptumCare will enable us to continue the transition to high-quality, high-value ambulatory surgical care, partnering with the full range of health systems, medical groups, and health plans."


Bruce Japsen writes for Forbes that the agreement aligns with a growing trend among health insurers to encourage policyholders to seek care at ambulatory surgical centers before going to hospitals.

Matthew Borsch, an analyst at Goldman Sachs Group, in a note to investors wrote that SCA "could provide a vehicle for UnitedHealth to more aggressively move surgical procedures away from the expensive hospital setting" and toward outpatient settings (Abelson, "DealB%k," New York Times, 1/9; Wilde Mathews, Wall Street Journal, 1/9; Tracer, Bloomberg, 1/9; Japsen, Forbes, 1/10; Livingston, Modern Healthcare, 1/10).

What do consumers want from surgical care?

We asked more than 2,400 consumers how they prioritize provider attributes like cost, travel time, and hospital affiliation when they need surgeries of varying acuity—a colonoscopy, knee replacement, coronary bypass, or cancerous tumor removal. Here's what they told us.


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