NU Online News Service, Aug. 6, 11:25 a.m. – MedUnite Inc., San Diego, an health data communications consortium, says it has completed the previously announced acquisition of a physician network business from NDCHealth Inc., Atlanta.

MedUnite will “shortly” use the physician network business to “launch a standardized Internet gateway to process claims, eligibility, referrals and formulary transaction services for physicians nationwide, the consortium says.

Seven large insurers organized MedUnite in March 2000, to compete with an independent dot-com startup, WebMD Corp., Elmwood Park, N.J., and keep the federal government from imposing a health data communications system of its own.

Federal officials say the lack of a standardized, national system drives up health care administration costs for all U.S. residents and, in some cases, may hurt the quality of care.

NDCHealth, an affiliate of National Data Corp., already handles electronic claims processing for thousands of physicians. The network has links to hundreds of health insurers, health maintenance organizations, and Medicare and Medicaid plans, MedUnite says.

MedUnite said in June that it was paying for the physician network business by giving NDCHealth an 18% stake in MedUnite and the right to nominate a representative to the MedUnite board.

MedUnite backers include Aetna Inc., Hartford; Anthem Inc., Indianapolis; CIGNA Corp., Philadelphia; Health Net Inc., Woodland Hills, Calif.; Oxford Health Networks Inc., Trumbull, Conn.; PacifiCare Health Systems Inc., Santa Ana, Calif.; and WellPoint Health Networks Inc., Thousand Oaks, Calif.