Threats to public option boost health plans' financial fortunes

With the public option under heavy fire in reform discussions in the Senate, Wall Street definitely has taken notice. If stock trends are any indication, investors think health plans will do much better without it.

As the public option has taken a beating in the Senate, shares of WellPoint have hit a 52-week high, along with CIGNA and UnitedHealth Group. This enthusiasm may reflect the fact that such companies' commercial plans are already taking a beating (though their government plans are largely doing well).

Health insurance giants like these have fought tooth and nail to defeat the public option in Congress. During the first nine months of 2009, in fact, the health services and HMO industry spend $52.8 million, employing 988 lobbyists, the Center for Responsive Politics reports. That's an almost 12 percent jump from the amount spent during the same period in 2008.

To get more background on this issue:
- read this Indianapolis Star piece

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