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UnitedHealth Group has bought up thousands of medical practices all over the country through its Optum unit, which have helped its insurance networks hold down costs. Now, the health-care giant says it’s setting its sights on small hospitals – but not to buy them — to help them stay independent.
United’s Optum is launching a new partnership with John Muir Health aimed at helping the small northern California hospital operator become more competitive with its larger rivals in the Bay Area.
“We don’t really want to sell to a larger system or get acquired,” explained Chris Pass, John Muir’s chief financial officer. “We know we need to get ourselves to a lower cost both for employers and employees. We think this is one of the best options we have to do that.”
Optum will take over the hospital’s billing and revenue functions, and will hire more than 500 John Muir employees involved in that back-office work. Optum, which…