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FTC headquarters in Washington. Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The Federal Trade Commission approved the $4.34 billion sale of DaVita's physician unit to Optum on Wednesday, a growing division of UnitedHealth Group; but Optum will be required to divest DaVita's large physician operations in Nevada to clear antitrust concerns.

The big picture: The deal, which has been under FTC review for 19 months, allows UnitedHealth to continue its conquest of all aspects of the health-care system — in this case, as a health insurer and care provider.

Details: The agreement stipulates Optum will have to sell DaVita's primary care group in the Las Vegas area to Intermountain Healthcare, a hospital system based in Utah. Those terms were not disclosed.

  • Optum already owns the other large physician group in the Las Vegas area, so if it acquired DaVita's operations, it would control 80% of the physician market, which "would allow UnitedHealth Group to exercise market power" and raise prices at will to other insurers, the FTC said in its complaint.
  • Because UnitedHealth is also the largest Medicare Advantage insurer in the area, controlling the 2 largest physician groups would allow UnitedHealth to charge rival plans more or exclude its doctors outright from competitors' networks.

That's not all: Colorado's attorney general negotiated a separate settlement to address anticompetitive concerns.

The bottom line: DaVita will now focus on its core dialysis business, while UnitedHealth maintains its position as one of the largest employers of doctors and biggest insurer for seniors.

Go deeper

Scoop: Garland defends DOJ's handling of Jan. 6 probe

Attorney General Merrick Garland. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland will tell the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday that federal prosecutors "are doing exactly what they are expected to do" in seeking accountability for the "intolerable assault" on the Capitol on Jan. 6, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Allies of former President Trump, including Republican congressmen, have criticized the department's treatment rioters charged with crimes, and sought to recast the insurrection as a righteous protest. Garland's testimony with be his first appearance before the panel.

Updated 44 mins ago - World

Police charge man with murder of British MP David Amess

Police outside Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, England, on Oct. 15. Photo: John Keeble/Getty Images

Police said Thursday that Ali Harbi Ali, a 25-year-old British man, has been charged with the murder of David Amess, a Conservative Party lawmaker in the U.K.

The big picture: Last week, the Metropolitan Police declared the fatal stabbing a terrorist incident, saying that they had found "a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism."

49 mins ago - Health

Pfizer booster has 95.6% efficacy against COVID, large study shows

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

A booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 95.6% effective against the coronavirus, compared with those who only had the first two initial doses, according to a large study released Thursday.

Why it matters: The study, which had more than 10,000 participants aged 16 and older, is the first controlled, randomized trial looking at boosters and their effectiveness, the companies said.