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`Medicare for All' Gives Health Insurer Stocks the Chills

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Health insurers are leading declines among health care stocks as investors turned their focus to Democrats’ new “Medicare for all” bill that would replace almost all private plans and assessed the implications of a Senate hearing on surging drug prices.

The S&P 500 Managed Health Care Index plunged as much as 4.9%, the most since Dec. 6, led by UnitedHealth Group Inc., Humana Inc. and WellCare Health Plans Inc. The broader health sector index fell 0.8%.

“This doesn’t have a prayer of being enacted anytime soon,” said Bloomberg Intelligence policy analyst Brian Rye. “But the noise factor is there, and you can bet multiple Democratic candidates will hop on board and push this in the debates starting in June.”

Some weakness may be related to a highly anticipated drug pricing hearing in the Senate on Tuesday, where major drugmakers again pointed to drug-plan middlemen for clouding the true price of prescription drugs. Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon suggested PBMs and health insurers would have their turn before the panel.

Insurers UnitedHealth and Cigna Corp, which also own the country’s largest pharmacy benefit managers, were both down about 4%. CVS Health Corp, which also owns a PBM and managed-care company Aetna Inc., fell 2%. The Nasdaq Biotech Index gained more than 1%.

— Read Democrats Unveil `Medicare for All’ Bill, on ThinkAdvisor.

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