Public Companies and Share prices and Health Care Reform and Health Care & Life Sciences

Wall Street likes wobble on health reform

January 20, 2010

With the stunning victory of Republican Scott Brown in the Massachusetts election for U.S. Senate, Wall Street analysts expect to see a bump in health care stocks.

Health insurers, such as Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc., and medical device companies, such as Warsaw-based Zimmer Holdings Inc., could benefit most, according to TradersHuddle.com.

That’s because the health care reform bills pending in Congress would lay $8.7 billion a year in taxes on those industries, as well as lay numerous regulations on insurers. Brown gives Republicans a 41st vote in the Senate, meaning the party could successfully filibuster Democratic proposals.

The stocks of WellPoint and Zimmer, along with their peers, rose Tuesday on expectations of Brown's victory. But analysts are expecting even more now that he has won.

Health insurance stocks rallied, Roy Blumberg, director of client portfolio management at The Philadelphia Group, told MarketWatch, because many traders think "less government in the health care area probably is better for all of us in the long run, and that's the vote you're seeing right now."

If health care reform does not pass, however, insurers would lose out on Congress’ requirement for all Americans to buy health insurance and a plan to spend $30 billion-$45 billion a year in taxpayer-funded subsidies to help low-income people do so.

Les Funtleyder, a health care stock analyst at Miller Tabak & Co. in New York, called Brown’s victory “Shakespearian” and predicted a “run” on health care stocks.

“The health care reform effort could be stymied if the House and Senate are unable to reach an agreement before the senator is seated,” Funtleyder wrote in a note to investors.

Even if Martha Coakley had won a narrow victory, Funtleyder foresaw a pullback by President Obama on his broad policy goals. He wrote, “The entire administration agenda including health care (which was quite broad to begin with) will be reduced in scope and that this will read through positively to health care stocks.”

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