It’s hard to ignore the pressure that an aging population is already putting on the U.S. healthcare system. What’s the best way to take advantage of the healthcare boom?
Jeff Feldman, founder and chairman of the New York City-based XShares Group, thinks his HealthShares are the answer. Each of the 17 HealthShares is an exchange-traded fund that targets industry-specific medical therapies and treatment devices. With the exception of the HealthShares Composite (NYSE: HHQ), which has 80 holdings, each ETF owns between 22 to 25 stocks in a focused healthcare segment.
Competing healthcare ETFs — such as the Healthcare Select Sector SPDRs (AMEX: XLV) (54 holdings), iShares Dow Jones U.S. Healthcare Sector (NYSE: IYH) (159 holdings) and the Vanguard Healthcare ETF (AMEX: VHT) (261 holdings) — charge a lot less than HealthShares’ 0.75 percent in fees and are considerably more diversified. According to XShares, that’s exactly the problem: Broadly diversified healthcare ETFs aren’t exploiting the small pockets of opportunity in the cutting-edge field.
The first five HealthShares ETFs began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in late January.
Beyond healthcare, the company is planning additional funds using proprietary indexes or in conjunction with strategic partners. One such partnership is the expected launch of ETFs based upon 22 Standard & Poor’s Custom/State Shares, composed of public securities of issuers in a specific state representing every region of the U.S.
Research: What makes healthcare such a compelling investment opportunity?Feldman: Healthcare is a $2 trillion business or 16 percent of the U.S. economy. Healthcare expenditures are currently growing more than 10 percent per year, which means this segment will double in 7 years. The 78 million baby boomers are now 43 to 61 years of age. They are still basically healthy, but this huge chunk of the U.S. population is getting close to the age when it must begin to lean heavily on the healthcare system. That system is already in deep trouble as 45 million people have no health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid have enormous unfunded liabilities totaling several trillion dollars, there is massive waste and fraud in the third-party payer system and employers are working feverishly to reduce their contributions to their employees’ healthcare. While all this is going on, the pharmaceutical industry has matured into an efficient oligopoly whose entire business model is based upon treating symptoms after a patient is sick.
There are plenty of healthcare ETFs to choose from. Why not just go with a Dow Jones or S&P healthcare index? Look at the components of those funds (or any other broad pharmaceutical or healthcare fund) and you will see that the majority of the portfolios are invested in the largest-cap companies. Most of the growth in the industry is not going to take place in the larger-cap companies. Until HealthShares, there was no opportunity to create a portfolio that gives access to innovation in specific sub-segments of the healthcare sector with the mitigation of risk.
Let’s talk about the HealthShares Composite (NYSE: HHQ). What does it do?The Composite includes the top five companies by market capitalization from each of our 16 HealthShares therapeutic verticals. We do not think of it as a staple, but rather a default investment for those who want general exposure to the biotech sector.