UnitedHealth gets FTC approval for DaVita unit purchase

(Reuters) - UnitedHealth Group Inc won anti-trust approval to buy DaVita Inc’s primary and urgent care unit for $4.3 billion, the Federal Trade Commission said on Wednesday.

The deal is part of an effort by health insurers to cut costs by playing a more direct role in medical services, including shifting patients to cheaper, more accessible locations for routine or non life-threatening emergency medical services.

The FTC approved the deal on condition that it sell a Las Vegas facility to Utah-based to Intermountain Healthcare.

The deal was announced in December 2017 as $4.9 billion but was reduced last December to $4.3 billion.

DaVita will be rolled into UnitedHealth’s Optum unit, which has some 30,000 physicians. Denver-based DaVita operates medical groups in six states that serve 1.7 million patients through about 300 clinics.

Optum said on Wednesday it had completed the transaction.DaVita’s kidney dialysis unit is not included in the deal.

The FTC was split on the proposed transaction, with the three Republicans voting to approve it.

The two Democrats, Rebecca Slaughter and Rohit Chopra, said that they would have pressed for stronger action in Colorado, even if it meant going to court. Separately, Colorado’s attorney general, Phil Weiser, said that it won an agreement from the companies to take steps to address those concerns through a price freeze in one case and similar measures.

Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru, Caroline Humer in New York and Diane Bartz in Washington; editing by Cynthia Osterman and Alistair Bell