Six months since its introduction, Obamacare has set market's pulse racing

As America's health reforms take effect, some firms look well placed to benefit, says Simon Read
  • @simonnread

It's been six months since the introduction of big health reforms in the US, known as Obamacare. By the start of April, the cut-off for coverage this year, around 8 million Americans had signed up for health plans under the Affordable Care Act.

While it's still a little early to assess the long-term impact on the nation's well-being, how have the reforms affected companies in the sector?

"Healthcare stocks have generally had a good run over the last year and the benefits of Obamacare look priced in," said Nick Ford, co-manager of the Miton US Opportunities fund.

"We should start to see a pick-up in utilisation of healthcare facilities [such as more operations at hospitals with better reimbursement), but we will not know for sure until healthcare providers report earnings next month."

Gemma Game, manager of the AXA Framlington Health fund, said: "The increased uptake of healthcare is set to benefit pharmaceutical distributors, retail pharmacies and hospitals in particular.

"Indeed, hospitals will likely experience an increase in footfall as newly insured patients start visiting physicians and receiving diagnoses that require treatment."

Dan Mahony, co-manager of Polar Capital Healthcare Opportunities, added: "While the political noise around President Obama's healthcare reforms has died down, the feedback from hospital companies suggests there has already been a significant improvement in patient volumes."

"This suggests that companies should be on track to meet or beat earnings expectations as we head into the second half of the year."

While Juliet Schooling Latter, research director at the fund supermarket Chelsea Financial Services, believes the healthcare reform story has further to play out, she feels the excitement is now centred on new treatments such as immune-oncology.

"In the future we are more likely to die with a disease rather than of a disease. Companies making these sorts of breakthroughs will really benefit," she said.

"Obamacare isn't the only theme in the sector," Mr Mahony added. "There is a huge amount of M&A taking place as innovation is accelerating and the big companies are getting bigger."

Dan Harlow, manager of the AXA Framlington American Growth fund, echoed that: "To date, perhaps the most tangible impact of Obamacare is its contribution to a pick-up in consolidation in the medical devices industry.

"In the last two months," he added, "we have seen Zimmer announce a takeover of Biomet and Medtronic acquire Covidien for $13bn and $43bn respectively."