Jun 19, 2019

FTC forces UnitedHealth to sell part of its DaVita acquisition

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.

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Trump says he will campaign against Lisa Murkowski after her support for Mattis

Trump with Barr and Meadows outside St. John's Episcopal church in Washington, D.C. on June 1. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Thursday that he would endorse "any candidate" with a pulse who runs against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Driving the news: Murkowski said on Thursday that she supported former defense secretary James Mattis' condemnation of Trump over his response to protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing. She described Mattis' statement as "true, honest, necessary and overdue," Politico's Andrew Desiderio reports.

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The president vs. the Pentagon

Trump visits Mattis and the Pentagon in 2018. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

Over the course of just a few hours, President Trump was rebuffed by the Secretary of Defense over his call for troops in the streets and accused by James Mattis, his former Pentagon chief, of trampling the Constitution for political gain.

Why it matters: Current and former leaders of the U.S. military are drawing a line over Trump's demand for a militarized response to the protests and unrest that have swept the country over the killing of George Floyd by police.

New York Times says Tom Cotton op-ed did not meet standards

Photo: Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A New York Times spokesperson said in a statement Thursday that the paper will be changing its editorial board processes after a Wednesday op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), which called for President Trump to "send in the troops" in order to quell violent protests, failed to meet its standards.

Why it matters: The shift comes after Times employees began a coordinated movement on social media on Wednesday and Thursday that argued that publishing the op-ed put black staff in danger. Cotton wrote that Trump should invoke the Insurrection Act in order to deploy the U.S. military against rioters that have overwhelmed police forces in cities across the country.