(Bloomberg) — U.S. health insurers that helped fund a campaign against ‘Obamacare’ — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) — hit an all-time high on the stock market Wednesday after UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE:UNH) said it would add hundreds of thousands of new customers because of the law.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Managed Health Care Index — which includes the five biggest U.S. insurers — closed at 1,031.18, the highest level since at least 1994. Health insurers have said that PPACA has cost them billions in taxes and fees — including $1 billion in 2014 for UnitedHealth — and burdened them with new regulations.
PPACA requires all Americans to have health insurance. To do so, it created marketplaces for people to buy coverage, often with subsidies, and expanded Medicaid, the joint federal-state program for the poor.
That’s meant millions of new customers. Questions remain about how profitable about the customers will be in future years, but, for now, investors are looking mainly at the enrollment numbers.
“We got something like 15 to 16 million people through those two channels, and about 10 million people were previously uninsured,” said Ana Gupte, an analyst at Leerink Partners. “That’s new growth that this industry never experienced before.”