February 14, 2012


The Case of the Rising Health Care Stocks (IRA STOLL, 2/13/12, NY Sun)

[B]efore shedding any tears for the insurance companies, check their stock prices. One of the most remarkable moments of the administration came on June 24, 2009, when, during a nationally televised ABC News "town hall" meeting on health care from the White House, Mr. Obama told Aetna's CEO, "Aetna is a well-managed company, and I am confident that your shareholders are going to do well."

If you took that stock tip from President Obama, you would have done pretty well -- shares in Aetna, one of the country's largest publicly traded health insurance companies, are up 89% since then, assuming reinvestment of dividends, far outpacing the 49% return of the Standard & Poor's 500 Index over the same period. Other large, publicly traded health insurance companies have also prospered during since that June 24, 2009 moment when passage of ObamaCare was far from assured. UnitedHealth Group is up an astonishing 120% since then. Humana is up 184%.

If you look at other inflection points, it's a similar story. Since Mr. Obama signed the health care bill into law on March 23, 2010, Aetna is up 33%, UnitedHealth is up 65%, and Humana is up 76%, all outpacing the 14% rise in the S&P 500 Index over the same period.

Since Mr. Obama's January 20, 2009, inauguration, Aetna is up 80%, UnitedHealth is up 127%, Humana is up 170%, and WellPoint, another large health insurer, is up 79%, all exceeding the 67% increase in the S&P 500 Index over the same period. For all the alarms that were raised during the ObamaCare debate that the regulation of profit and mandates of benefits, such as free birth control pills, would savage the insurance companies, the market seems to have a different opinion. That opinion seems to be that being one of just a few vendors of a product that the government is going to force every American to buy isn't such a bad business to be in.

It's always amusing to hear folks claim that Obamacare will ruin the insurance industry.

Posted by at February 14, 2012 8:18 PM

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