By Jud Pyle, CFA, chief investment strategist for the Options News Network

It has been a rough week for managed care providers

Cigna

(CI) - Get Report

,

Aetna

(AET)

and

UnitedHealth

(UNH) - Get Report

.

First, on Monday, fellow managed care provider

Humana

(HUM) - Get Report

made less than positive comments about the Medicare advantage program.

That put the whole sector under pressure. Then today, the stocks have been hit again as investors pore over the details of the budget proposal. However, in the midst of all of this downside pressure on the stocks today, we have seen some bullish option activity as some investors attempt to bottom-fish.

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Looking at AET, we see that over 15,000 of the March 25 calls traded vs. current open interest of just 428. These calls closed at $1.63 vs. a stock close of $24.03.

What is notable about this volume is that a good deal of the volume was on the buy side. At a price of $1.63, that stock needs to be above $26.63 for the option to be in the money at expiration. Clearly, the buyer believes that there could be a snap-back in the shares.

Looking at CI, we saw bullish option activity, this time in the form of put-selling. Looking at the March 12.5 puts, we see that they had volume of more than 12,800. The open interest is 11,898, according to the Sidewinder report at www.ONN.tv, so as a percentage of open interest it is not that big of a deal.

But what is notable is that this was predominantly a seller of options. The options closed tonight at 45 cents vs. a stock price of $16.39. Sellers of those puts might be betting that the stock closes above $12.05 at March expiration.

Lastly, we have UNH, where we find that over 11,900 of the March 22.5 calls have traded today vs. an open interest of 1,527. Again, we find that most of the call volume was driven by buyers. These calls closed at 70 cents vs. a stock price of $20.07. The buying pushed the implied volatility up to 74 from a level of 63 last night.

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Bullish option activity like we saw today in these three names does not mean that investors should run out and buy the shares. However, investors who are contemplating selling the shares should at least be cognizant of the fact that some big investors have been willing to bet that the selloffs in the stocks will not continue.

Or, at least that there will be enough of a rebound soon enough for them to sell out of their long calls at a profit. The call buyers do not need to hold their options until expiration. They might choose to sell them out to a higher bidder, if the stock were to rally and the calls along with it.

Jud Pyle is the chief investment strategist for Options News Network (www.ONN.tv) and the portfolio manager of TheStreet.com Options Alerts. Click here for a free trial for Options Alerts. Mr. Pyle writes regularly about options investing for TheStreet.com.

Jud Pyle, CFA, is the chief investment strategist for Options News Network. Pyle started his career in finance in 1994 as a derivative analyst with SBC Warburg. After four years with Warburg, Pyle joined PEAK6 Investments, L.P., in 1998 as an equity options trader and as chief risk officer. A native of Minneapolis, Pyle received his bachelor's degree in economics and history from Colgate University in 1994. As a trader, Pyle traded on average over 5,000 contracts per day, and over 1.2 million contracts per year. He also built the stock group for all PEAK6 Investments, L.P. hedging, which currently trades on average over 5 million shares per day, and over 1 billion shares per year. Further, from 2004-06, he managed the trading and risk management for PEAK6 Investments L.P.'s lead market-maker operation on the former PCX exchange, which traded more than 10,000 contracts per day. Pyle is the "Mad About Options" resident expert. He is also a regular contributor to "Options Physics."