( DVA ), for about $4.9 billion in cash.
This move is part of a growing shift for health insurers to play a more direct role in actual medical services.
The insurer will acquire almost 300 clinics that serve about 1.7 million patients, as well as 35 urgent-care centers and six surgery centers.
In a joint news release Wednesday morning, "The combination will improve care quality, cost and patient satisfaction through integrated ambulatory care delivery systems enabled by information technology and supportive clinical services". The local offices include doctors offices and dialysis centers. In describing the group's most recent quarterly financial results, DaVita's chief executive, Kent J. Thiry, said they were "extremely disappointing".
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The DaVita acquisition will add 2,200 physicians, nurse practitioners and physicians' assistants and 15,000 other affiliated providers who serve its patients to UnitedHealth's Optum unit, which has more than 30,000 physicians who work for or are affiliated with its practices.
"We also look forward to working closely with the leadership team of DaVita Medical Group to combine our capabilities and, supported by the data analytics and technology capabilities of Optum, enhancing patient care and the value we provide to the communities we serve". The company already operates medical practices in Southern California and elsewhere, and it owns almost 250 MedExpress urgent-care clinics.
DaVita's physician network unit recorded sales of $4.11 billion previous year but had become a major drag on the company's financial performance in recent quarters despite contributing 30 per cent to total revenue.
DaVita has said it will use the money from the sale for stock buybacks and repaying debt after the deal closes, which is expected to occur sometime next year.