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Bob Herman Mar 23, 2017
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Health care sees dollar signs in surgery centers

Sue Ogrocki / AP

The health care deals that grab the most attention involve pharmaceuticals, insurance or hospitals. But there's quietly been massive consolidation among ambulatory surgery centers — outpatient facilities where physicians perform routine procedures, such as elbow or cataract surgeries, and get patients back home in less than a day.

Why there's been a buying spree: More care is being done in the outpatient setting, since it's less expensive than getting the same care inside a hospital. Yet, surgery centers are very lucrative because they don't handle emergency procedures. The business model resembles a high-profit assembly line: Schedule as many quick, elective surgeries as possible, mostly for people who have better-paying commercial health insurance. Here are some telling 2016 figures from the biggest surgery center chains, according to each company's latest financial filing: