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Bank of America $5 Fee is Peanuts: Occupy UnitedHealth

Stocks in this article: UNH AET C BAC WFC JPM

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Protesters and many members of the public are enraged about Wall Street, and rightly so, but scrutiny of the banking system appears to be taking its toll. Meanwhile, the healthcare industry continues reaping massive profits, and by some measures costing the public far more than the banks.

People are seriously angry about Bank of America (BAC)'s decision to charge debit card users $5 per month, as you can see from the 381 comments and 412 Facebook "likes" garnered by a poll of TheStreet's readers on Friday. For the public, it's just another sign of the banker greed that has had protesters out for more than two weeks now as the movement known as "Occupy Wall Street" gathers steam.

By contrast, far fewer people appear to have been so fired up about this study by the Kaiser Family Foundation that found the average annual premium for family healthcare coverage through an employer rose by 9% in 2011 and could go far higher than that in some instances in 2012, especially in New York, according to a report on Wednesday by The New York Times.

Aetna (AET), for example, has requested new increases of between 8.9 and 53.6%, while UnitedHealth Group (UNH) is aiming to hike premiums by 13-34%, according to the Times report, which cites the State Insurance Department.

We're talking about a lot more money being taken out of people's pockets than will be taken by a $5 fee. And despite the dominance of the big banks, consumers have many more choices about where to bank than they do about which health insurer to use.

That may be why shares of Aetna are up nearly 18% this year and shares of UnitedHealth are up by more than 26%.

By contrast, the anti-bank rage may be having its effect. Bank of America shares have fallen some 4% since Thursday, when the bank announced its fee hike, and they opened lower on Monday. Shares of the bank are down more than 54% year to date, as investors fear new rules for banks may severely limit their earnings power. Even "healthy" banks like JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Wells Fargo (WFC) have seen their shares fall more than 20% this year, while shares of Citigroup (C), which isn't as exposed to the U.S. mortgage market and has more exposure to emerging markets than its megabank peers, is down nearly 50%

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