UnitedHealth Group to Buy Outpatient Surgery Chain for $2.3 Billion

UnitedHealth Group, one of the largest and most diversified health insurance companies in the United States, said on Monday that it planned to buy Surgical Care Affiliates, a chain of outpatient surgery centers, for about $2.3 billion. The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2017.

While the acquisition is a relatively small one for UnitedHealth, whose annual revenues last year were around $180 billion, it marks the latest step in the company’s evolution from a traditional insurer to a diversified health services company.

UnitedHealth’s Optum unit offers a broad range of health care services to hospitals, doctors and other insurers, but it also provides medical care directly to patients through primary care practices and urgent care centers. The company says it has 20,000 affiliated physicians and says it plans to combine the surgery centers with those businesses.

Insurers are aggressively experimenting with new ways to pay doctors and hospitals to reward them for delivering better care at lower prices. Many doctors are scrambling to join health systems and insurers to avoid being left behind.

“Combining SCA and OptumCare will enable us to continue the transition to high-quality, high-value ambulatory surgical care, partnering with the full range of health systems, medical groups and health plans,” Larry C. Renfro, vice chairman of UnitedHealth Group and the chief executive of Optum, said in a statement.

Surgical Care Affiliates, based in Deerfield, Ill., is a public company that operates 205 surgical facilities, including specialized hospitals, in partnership with surgeons in 30 states. The company was backed by the private equity firm TPG Capital, which said it would be selling its 30 percent stake in the chain.