The nation's largest health insurer is spending nearly $ 5 billion to buy hundreds of clinics, just three days after rival Aetna announced a larger deal with CVS Health Corp.
UnitedHealth Group Inc. said On Wednesday he will buy DaVita Medical Group in an agreement that extends the scope of its Optum healthcare business to several other states.
Health insurers and other entities have been pushing more to manage or provide care to patients in order to reduce costs and improve quality, especially for people with chronic conditions. It is a trend that patient advocates and doctors are beginning to observe with concern.
Insurers and operators of clinics such as CVS say they expect their more participatory approach to patient care to help people follow a treatment plan or live healthier lives, than they could from costly complications or hospital stays .
Insurers also want their patients to use clinics and care centers as a way to reduce the use of expensive emergency rooms for care that is not serious.
But Daniel Klein, the CEO of the Patient Access Network Foundation, fears that this trend may encourage more treatment restrictions. Klein has a nonprofit organization that helps insured people with rare, chronic or life-threatening conditions pay for prescription drugs.
You are concerned that more patients see larger bills or try first with less effective medications before getting what the doctor wants to prescribe.
"Patients may not have as many options and providers may not have as many treatment options available to them," he said.
Some doctors are concerned that offers may fuel more fragmented care and it is more difficult for family doctors to track the patient's health.
But they could also help if clinics and other care options work with doctors to coordinate care, said Dr. Michael Munger, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
"We are not saying that we are against these mergers (…) we are waiting to see the direction in which they are going to go," he said.
The UnitedHealth agreement based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, will add DaVita Medical Group has about 300 primary and specialty care clinics for its Optum segment, as well as some ambulatory and urgent care centers.
Optum already operates more than 1,100 primary surgery and primary care centers through a business it has been expanding.  On Sunday, CVS said it would pay about $ 69 billion for Aetna Inc., the third largest health insurer in the country. That agreement could position the company as a single window for basic medical care, chronic disease control, prescription drugs and insurance to cover those goods and services.
CVS manages almost 10,000 stores and also operates one of the country's largest pharmaceutical benefits management businesses. Aetna covers around 22 million people.