The FTC approves the acquisition of the Denver-based Davitas medical group

On Wednesday, the US Federal Trade Commission gave its blessing, on terms, to the long-standing $ 4.3 billion merger of a subsidiary of Denver-based dialysis vendor DaVita Inc. with Optum, a healthcare company owned by UnitedHealth Group's insurance giant.

The FTC's 4-0 vote in favor of the binding between Optum and DaVita Medical Group, a physician network serving around 1.7 million patients in six states, including Colorado, requires the UnitedHealth Group to dispose of the DaVita Medical Group Healthcare Organization – HealthCare Partners of Nevada – in the Las Vegas area.

But in an unprecedented movement just hours before the FTC's vote, the Colorado Attorney sent General Phil Weiser a complaint in the El Paso County District Court to face competition competition concerns about the merger's effect on the Colorado Springs health market, which the FTC did not include in its set of conditions for approval.

Photo by RJ S Angosti, The Denver Post

On Wednesday, the FTC approved the $ 4.3 billion merger from DaVita Medical Group, a subsidiary of Denver-based DaVita Inc., and Optum, owned by UnitedHealth Group.

Weiser's office said it seized because the FTC "investigated the merger, but refused to seek any solutions to protect Colorado consumers."

"Traditionally, state law offices have taken the back seat of the federal government to protect consumers," says Weiser in a statement. "Today's action is a path-marking step that demonstrates Colorado's commitment to protecting consumers from competition competition mergers or other harmful actions. "

Weiser's lawsuit contains a consent assessment, which was approved by the merging companies, which spells out the steps they will take to address" the state's concerns about the potential competitive effects of the merger, if not labeled. the Colorado Springs Market for Medicare Advantage Plans. "

The focus falls on El Paso County because UnitedHealth Group subsidiary UnitedHealthcare is the largest provider of Medicare Advantage plans in the area, and DaVita Medical Group owns two major medical groups in Colorado Springs – Colorado Springs Health Partners and Mountain View Medical Group.

Un itedHealthcare will pledge its exclusive contract with Centura Health for at least 3 1/2 years, resulting in an extension in the network of vendors available to seniors in Medicare Adv assuming plans offered by other vendors, according to the consent judgment. For its part, DaVita Medical Group's agreement with Humana – United Health Health's main competitor in Colorado Springs will be extended through at least next year.

"If the freeride was not delivered, the merger could lead to reduced competition, higher health costs, reduced benefits, and fewer choices for the elderly," Weiser said.

Weiser, who served as Dean of the University of Colorado Law School from 2011-16 , elected as a lawyer in Colorado in November, has been heavily involved in antitrust relations throughout his career.

He worked for the US Department of Justice's anti-trust department under President Bill Clinton, and later served as assistant lawyer at Justice under President Barack Obama, who oversaw antitrust investigations. On his lawyer secretary general's campaign page, Weiser wrote that he "worked to strengthen the assessment of competition competition mergers" under Obama.

The agreement, announced in December 2017, means that the combined companies will earn 16 million people through more than 80 health plans, according to Optum, Optum consists of a doctor group, ambulatory surgical operation three and emergency centers.

According to a DaVita spokeswoman, the merger became effective as soon as the FTC approved it.

Optum CEO Andrew Witty said in a statement that the merged companies "will improve the patient's health and experience while reducing costs throughout the supply – including primary, special, emergency and surgical care."

Kent Thiry, who went down as Davita's long-term CEO on June 1, remains with the DaVita Medical Group starting an exciting new chapter and helping doctors promote patient care. "

DaVita Inc. has made many headlines – for wrong reasons – in recent years. In 2015, a subsidiary of the company agreed to pay nearly half a billion dollars to settle a whistleblowing case accusing it of deceiving Millions of Dollars Medicare

When last year, the DaVita Medical Group hosted another $ 270 million to settle claims that it reported inaccurate medical patient information to the government, which led to higher Medicare allowances for insurance companies, of which the company received a share.

Also in 2018, a federal jury in Denver returned a verdict against DaVita, awarding $ 383.5 million in unfair death cases taken by the families of three patients who died of cardiac arrest following treatment on the company. dialysis clinics

In a press release issued late Wednesday afternoon, Optum said that DaVita will continue to own and operate its kidney care businesses r after the acquisition of the subsidiary.

"DaVita will continue its focus on improving the quality of life of patients and expanding access to integrated care in the kidneys," said Davitas newly-developed CEO Javier Rodriguez.

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