UnitedHealth acquires Monarch HealthCare


The buyer: UnitedHealth (NYSE: UNH), based in Minnetonka, Minn.

The acquired: Monarch HealthCare, based in Irvine, Calif.

The price: Undisclosed

The timeline: Strategic relationship entered Aug. 31, 2011

The scoop: UnitedHealth's health services unit, OptumHealth, will handle non-clinical operations at Monarch HealthCare, an Irvine, Calif.-based group of more than 2,300 independent physicians. Monarch also offers access to 20 hospitals and more than 30 urgent care centers for after-hours and weekend care. Although California prohibits insurers from directly employing doctors, UnitedHealth legally can handle contracts with other health plans, cut checks to doctors for services they provide, and make decisions about IT investments.

"Optum shares Monarch HealthCare's commitment to bringing patients, physicians, hospitals and health care payers closer together in the mission to increase the quality and affordability of care," Optum CEO Larry Renfro said Aug. 31 in a statement emailed to the press.

The deal positions OptumHealth as a formidable presence in the Southern California region, adding Monarch to its previous takeover of two smaller groups, AppleCare Medical Group and Memorial HealthCare Independent Practice Association.