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Health Care ETFs See Hope

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Even before President Obama took the oath of office, health care providers were pummeled by reform speculation.

As public support of health care measures has wavered, however, healthcare providers and the ETFs that track them may have a chance to rebound.

The iShares Dow Jones U.S. Healthcare Providers ETF (IHF) (IHF), which counts United Health Group (UNH), Aetna (AET), Quest Diagnostics (DGX) and Cigna (CI) as top components, and the thinly traded PowerShares Dynamic Healthcare Services (PTJ) have been two of the worst performing healthcare ETFs in the past 18 months.

During that period PTJ has lost close to 25% of its value, while IHF has lost more than 10%. While other health care ETFs like iShares Dow Jones U.S. Medical Devices (IHI) and PowerShares Dynamic Healthcare (PTH) have had similar returns to IHF, pharma and biotech ETFs have seen a wider range of results. iShares Dow Jones U.S. Pharmaceuticals (IHE) and First Trust NYSE Biotech (FBT) saw small gains.

This trend for providers could reverse, as voters turn their backs on the ambitious healthcare overhaul. Most recently, Democratic candidates in New Jersey and Virginia fell to their Republican challengers, a sign of voter dissatisfaction with the Obama administration's policies.

Recently, IHF and PTJ are showing signs of a rebound. For the three-month period ended Nov. 5, IHF has jumped 8.67% while PTJ climbed 5.37%.

The road to positive territory for these health care provider funds has been difficult. IHF was hammered in the autumn of 2008 as Barack Obama looked increasingly likely to win the presidency, because this sector is in the crosshairs of government reform.

Under a worst-case scenario, most of the companies in this ETF could be legislated out of existence under a universal health care plan. Thus, in the wake of Obama's election, shares tumbled and set a low that would not be surpassed until the following March.

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