In late February, Crystal Run Healthcare, a Middletown, NY-based physician group with nearly 400 providers, became part of UHG’s Optum division.
A local paper broke the news after obtaining an email from Crystal Run’s CEO, as neither company issued a press release, though UHG has since confirmed the acquisition. In addition to pandemic-related financial difficulties, Crystal Run recently shuttered its health plan after large losses, and its Medicare accountable care organization failed to earn savings in 2021.
Crystal Run expands Optum’s footprint in the Hudson Valley region north of New York City, following the acquisition of Mount Kisco, NY-based Caremount Medical in 2022. The company’s broader New York metro area footprint includes Connecticut-based ProHEALTH and New Jersey-based Riverside Medical Group, the three of which Optum has since integrated into a single tri-state medical group.
The Gist: Optum continues to secure its place as the country’s largest aggregator of physicians, now employing or aligning with over 70,000 doctors nationwide.
Not only does every new deal by UHG bolster its vertical integration strategy, but they also shine a light on gaps in federal antitrust regulations. UHG must only disclose deals that comprise a “significant” portion of its business, a threshold that excludes physician groups as large as Crystal Run—making it difficult to fully examine transactions that are subscale according to regulations, but may be significant for healthcare delivery in a local market.
Some state governments, including New York, are exploring ways to increase state antitrust scrutiny of provider acquisitions. But in multi-state markets where only the federal government has the authority for full oversight, UHG’s acquisition strategies are proving difficult to even monitor, much less intervene.