UnitedHealth Group Inc. will buy DaVita Inc.'s physician network business for $4.9 billion, adding hundreds of medical clinics to United's growing business of not just paying for benefits but providing medical care directly.

The all-cash takeover will bulk up UnitedHealth's growing business of clinics and physician practices, which it operates under the OptumCare name. Already the biggest U.S. health insurer, the company has been expanding its front-line care business to take more control over how its insurance dollars are spent.

"Combining DaVita Medical Group and Optum advances our shared goal of supporting physicians in delivering exceptional patient care in innovative and efficient ways," Larry Renfro, chief executive officer of Optum, said in a statement Wednesday announcing the deal.

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