UnitedHealth is competing directly with U.S. Anesthesiology, according to the lawsuit in Texas, through an interest in Sound Physicians, a large medical practice that provides emergency and anesthesiology services. Sound Physicians plans to expand into markets like Fort Worth and Houston, and US Anesthesia alleges in the lawsuit that its doctors were contacted by Sound Physicians to persuade them to leave and the non-compete agreements in their contracts to work with the United Group in To ask a question.
The primary insurer is throwing its weight around in other ways, the lawsuit alleges. While the company’s Optum division, which runs the surgery centers and clinics, is technically segregated from the health insurer, doctors are accusing United of forcing OptumCare facilities to sever their ties with the anesthesia group and forcing the network’s surgeons to do theirs Operations to relocate hospitals or facilities that do not have contracts with US Anesthesia.
“United and its subsidiaries have expanded their tentacles to almost every aspect of the healthcare sector, enabling United to crush, suffocate and destroy any market participant who stands in the way of United’s higher profits,” the doctors claim in their lawsuit.
According to United, it is common for an insurer to sponsor the use of hospitals and doctors on its network.
Unlike many smaller medical groups struggling with the pandemic, United has maintained a strong financial position and propped up profits while elective surgeries and other legal proceedings have been suspended, resulting in fewer medical claims. The company was therefore expanded further, more doctors were hired and additional practices were bought up. The company plans to add more than 10,000 salaried or affiliate doctors this year.
The relationship between insurers and providers has become more complicated as more and more insurers own groups of doctors or clinics. “You want to be the referee and play on the other team,” said Michael Turpin, a former United CEO who is now executive vice president of USI, an insurance broker.
Employers who rely on UnitedHealthcare to insure their employees have difficulty assessing who will benefit when insurers fail to reach an agreement to keep a provider on the network. “This is as much about profit as it is principle,” said Turpin.