Thursday, August 20, 2009

Health Insurance Stocks Dip Lower Than Market

From The Associated Press:

Managed care stocks dipped slightly lower than the overall market Wednesday, after insurers received more bad publicity with letters from Congress asking for executive compensation details and other financial information.

Several stocks fell around 1 percent while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed slightly. Wednesday's performance followed a managed care rally on Monday, after statements from the Obama administration downplayed the possibility of a government-backed public health plan that many investors fear would provide unfair competition to private health insurers.

The stocks have gone through several volatile periods since the health care reform overhaul debate started taking shape earlier this year.

Dozens of insurers received requests for information that included records relating to compensation of highly paid employees, documents relating to companies' premium income and claims payments, and information on expenses stemming from any event held outside company facilities in the past 2 1/2 years.

The requests were made in letters signed by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who guided a portion of health care legislation through the House Energy and Commerce Committee last month as chairman, and Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich.

Of the largest publicly traded health insurers, only Louisville, Ky.-based Humana Inc. has said it plans to cooperate fully. Others have only said they received the letters.

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Thomas Carroll said the request implies that health insurers are doing something wrong.

"It's further demonizing of the health insurance industry, and it's pushing the stocks back down today a little bit," he said.

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