By Anna Wilde Mathews

UnitedHealth Group Inc.'s Optum health-services arm has agreed to acquire Surgical Care Affiliates Inc. for about $2.3 billion, adding a major surgical company to its growing roster of doctor groups and clinics.

The deal, for a mixture of cash and stock, substantially expands the health-care provider footprint of UnitedHealth, which is already the parent of the biggest U.S. health insurer, UnitedHealthcare.

The acquisition represents a continued bet on physician services at a time when Republicans' plans to unwind the Affordable CareAct have created uncertainty for many health-care providers, particularly hospitals, which potentially stand to see a drop-off in insured, paying patients.

UnitedHealth has said Optum aims to provide primary care and ambulatory services in 75 markets, representing about two-thirds of the U.S. population. In late November of last year it had clinical practices in 26, UnitedHealth told investors. Optum has already been on a yearslong shopping spree, buying up doctor groups around the country as well as a large urgent-care clinic operator, MedExpress. UnitedHealth has said it intends to expand MedExpress in 2017.

The takeover of Surgical Care Affiliates will add a group of around 200 outpatient surgery centers, along with a few surgical hospitals and a sleep center, according to the smaller company's third-quarter filings. Surgical Care Affiliates operated in 33 states as of the end of September. In 2015, it had operating revenue of around $1.1 billion.

UnitedHealth said it would acquire Surgical Care Affiliates for $57 per share, with between 51% and 80% of the price coming in the form of UnitedHealth stock. UnitedHealth will determine the final percentage, the company said, with the remainder of the payout coming in cash. The companies expect the deal to close in the first half of 2017.

Surgical Care Affiliates is about 30% owned by affiliates of private-equity firm TPG Capital, which supports the deal.

Write to Anna Wilde Mathews at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 09, 2017 07:18 ET (12:18 GMT)

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