The American Medical Association has issued a statement attacking the announcement that UnitedHealth Group Inc. intends to pay $8.1 billion to acquire PacifiCare Health Systems Inc.[@@]

UnitedHealth, Minnetonka, Minn., a national managed care company, has about 23 health plan members, and PacifiCare, Cypress, Calif., which is strongest in California and other Western states, has about 3.3 million members.

The AMA, Chicago, “is outraged that at a time when health care costs are escalating and the number of uninsured continues to rise that an enormously profitable private health insurance conglomerate, UnitedHealth Group, is spending $8.1 billion to acquire yet another national health insurer, PacifiCare,” Dr. William Plested III, president-elect of the AMA, says in the AMA statement. “This acquisition highlights the alarming rate of consolidation within the health insurance industry that the AMA has been cautioning about for years.”

The AMA says UnitedHealth’s relationships with doctors “leaves much to be desired,” and it is asking state and federal regulatory agencies to examine the company’s proposed acquisitions closely.