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Optum sets its sights on Massachusetts’ largest independent physician group

On January 12, Becker’s Hospital Review reported that Optum is in talks to buy Atrius Health, a non-profit, 715-physician group in Massachusetts. Here's how this acquisition fits into the flurry of recent news stories about Optum.

When we look at the trend toward vertical integration in the insurance industry (i.e., insurance giants gobbling up pharmacy benefits managers, data and analytics companies, specialty pharmacies, digital patient monitoring platforms, provider groups, and more) no player has been more aggressive than UnitedHealthcare’s Optum. And Optum’s latest acquisition is yet another piece of evidence to support this view.

Atrius Health has a major presence in Massachusetts, with 715 physicians and 31 practices serving 750,000 patients across primary and specialty care, imaging, labs, and pharmacy—United’s play to acquire Atrius is exactly the kind of activity we’d expect to see and are sure will continue into 2021. Case in point: During an earnings call in January 2021, CEO David Wichmann announced plans to add 10,000 physicians to Optum’s current 50,000-physician network. This is just one of multiple efforts to further expand United’s provider arm this year.

As we watch to see if the proposed acquisition makes it through a review by the state’s Health Commission Policy and Attorney General, we will also watch to see which independent physician group—likely reeling from the financial impacts of the pandemic—Optum might go after next. We have a hunch we won’t have to wait for long.

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