Optum's latest 1,700-physician group Steward deal: What we know 

Optum, the parent company of SCA Health and the country's largest employer of physicians, announced plans to acquire Dallas-based Steward Health Care's physician group. 

Here's what we know about the controversial deal thus far:

1. Collaborative Care Holdings, an Optum subsidiary, filed a notice March 26 with Massachusetts' Health Policy Commission to acquire the physician group, which includes clinicians in nine states, for an undisclosed amount. 

2. The commission has 30 days to assess the effects of the proposed transaction on healthcare costs and market functions. While it doesn’t have the authority to block a transaction, it can refer findings to Massachusetts agencies, such as the state Attorney General’s office or the Department of Public Health, for possible further action.

3. The commission's executive director, David Seltz, said in a statement the panel will conduct a
"rigorous, data-driven oversight of health care market changes to bring important information to the public" and that the sale can not be completed until the review and any concurrent review. 

"This is a significant proposed change involving two large medical providers, both in Massachusetts and nationally, with important implications for the delivery and cost of health care across Massachusetts," he added. "Details of the proposal will be reviewed by the HPC to examine potential impacts on health care costs, quality, access, and equity." 

4. The sale is a part of the 33-hospital system's plan to mitigate financial distress. The system fell $50 million behind on year-end rent to Medical Properties Trust and went from being purchased for $895 million in 2010 to losing more than $800 million from 2017 to 2020.

5. The deal has drawn scrutiny from lawmakers, including Mass. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mass. House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Mass. Sen. Edward Markey.

"Optum, a UnitedHealth Group subsidiary, is already the largest employer of physicians in the country — controlling over ten percent of American doctors — which means this deal raises significant antitrust concerns in Massachusetts and nationally," Ms. Warren said in a March 26 statement

Mr. Mariano said the commission's review should not delay state and federal antitrust authorities from doing their own review to protect patient access and affordability, according to a March 27 report from The Washington Post

"With this announcement, Optum must demonstrate that it can meet the even greater responsibility to preserve and protect health care access," Mr. Markey said March 27 at a press conference, according to the Post. "I hope they will live up to that responsibility by controlling costs and putting patients and providers first."

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