By Lauren Weber | KHN
ST. LOUIS — Christina Green hoped cataract surgery would clear up her cloudy vision, which had worsened after she took a drug to fight her breast cancer.
But the former English professor said her 2019 surgery with Ophthalmology Consultants didn’t get her to 20/20 vision or fix her astigmatism — despite a $3,000 out-of-pocket charge for the astigmatism surgical upgrade. Green, 69, said she ended up feeling more like a dollar sign to the practice than a patient.
“You’re a cow among a herd as you just move from this station to this station to this station,” she said.
Ophthalmology Consultants is part of EyeCare Partners, one of the largest private equity-backed U.S. eye care groups. It is headquartered in St. Louis and counts some 300 ophthalmologists and 700 optometrists in its networks across 19 states. The group declined to comment.
Switzerland-based Partners Group bought EyeCare Partners in 2019 for $2.2 billion. Another eye care giant, Texas-based Retina Consultants of America, was formed in 2020 with a $350 million investment from Massachusetts-based Webster Equity Partners, a private equity firm, and now it says on its website it has 190 physicians across 18 states. Other private equity groups are building regional footprints with practices such as Midwest Vision Partners and EyeSouth Partners. Acquisitions have escalated so much that private equity firms now are routinely selling practices to one another.
“Avoid these pitfalls if you’re selling your physician practice. Selling a physician practice carries special challenges in view of the heavy regulations of the health care industry, and it’s critical that it is structured correctly. Such that it does not trigger violations of state and federal healthcare laws for the seller, including, but, not limited to, the Federal Anti-kickback Statutes and Stark law.”
Shruti Gurudanti, Rose Law Group partner and director of corporate transactions