Increasingly, health insurers encourage their enrollees to consider an ambulatory surgery center for a procedure before a hospital . So it only makes sense UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest insurer, would prefer to pay for surgeries at its own lower-cost centers.
Surgical Care Affiliates “could provide a vehicle for UnitedHealth Group UNH +0.22% to more aggressively move surgical procedures away from the expensive hospital setting,” analysts at Goldman Sachs wrote Monday after United’s OptumCare unit agreed to buy Surgical Care for $2.3 billion.
When surgeries are done in a hospital, they are more expensive, and health insurers see inpatient procedures as a big share of total healthcare costs that needs to be reigned in, analyst say. “UnitedHealth is attacking surgeries, which are a very large portion of the healthcare spend,” the Barclays analyst team led by Joshua Raskin wrote Monday.