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The Daily Barometer

The Student News Site of Oregon State University

The Daily Barometer

The Student News Site of Oregon State University

The Daily Barometer

Corvallis Clinic inches closer to approval of Optum buyout:

Financial instability drives expedited review process
Reid Myers
An Ambulance pulls away from the Corvallis Clinic Asbury building on March 11, 2024.

The controversial merger of The Corvallis Clinic and United Healthcare-owned Optum Health is one step closer to reality, following an analysis by the Oregon Health Authority on emergency exemption from state review. 

Since early 2023, The Corvallis Clinic has been trying to rope in Optum Health as a transactions partner due to financial struggles in the wake of the pandemic, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

The OHA’s Health Market Oversight Program determined the merger qualifies for an emergency review exemption in a determination letter released on March 13 following the March 9 emergency review exemption request filed by The Corvallis Clinic. 

“TCC’s financials depict a grim financial projection and threatened immediate closure of TCC [The Corvallis Clinic],” states OHA’s letter of determination in response to The Corvallis Clinic’s submitted financial records. “The information provided to date represents an emergency immediately threatening health care services in TCC’s service area.” 

The OHA HMOP review process would typically consider how the proposed buyout – referred to as a transaction — would affect health equity, access, quality and costs to consumers according to the initial description of the program function and purpose in 2022. 

The Corvallis Clinic was unable to be reached for comment, but according to the documents made available by OHA, no clear date of the transaction has been announced.

The Corvallis Clinic requested exemption on March 9, citing a lack of financial stability needed to maintain its current medical services. The filed exemption from review document also threatened the risk of the clinic being “forced to close its doors” without the cash flow that would come with the Optum buyout. Specifics relating to when a potential closure could take place if the merger did not proceed are not publicly available.

The clinic’s lawyers, who filed the request, wrote, “The transaction is expected to maintain essential services at or above current levels” and promised to retain the current 600 providers and support staff employed by the clinic in the buyout. This comes as Optum’s parent company, United Healthcare, has received backlash for layoffs following their mergers in recent years and is in an active lawsuit regarding wrongful artificial intelligence moderated denial of coverage for many Medicare Advantage members. 

Public comments on the emergency exemption were overwhelmingly skeptical and disapproving of the buyout of the local clinic. Among the comments which cite lack of clarity and sufficient information was a comment by Benton County Commissioner Nancy Wyse. 

“As the definition used by OHA stresses, health equity is all about the transfer of power and resources. Let’s not further slow progress by going the wrong way on this transfer of power and resources,” Wyse said in her public comment. 

The clinic has repeatedly emphasized their belief that the transaction with Optum is in the best interest of its patients and the company as a whole. 

“The Corvallis Clinic continues to believe that Optum is the strongest transaction partner, just as it did when it entered into negotiations with Optum in early 2023,” wrote the Corvallis Clinic’s lawyers in the emergency exception request document. “The Corvallis Clinic is also of the belief that the proposed transaction with Optum is likely the only way it can maintain solvency and continue to provide care to the community.” 

One of the clinic’s lawyers, John French, said they are unable to comment on the behalf of the parties they represent. 

The Barometer will continue to update as this story progresses.

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