Shares of UnitedHealth Group (UNH) - Get Report rose sharply on Friday after Senator Elizabeth Warren's recently-released Medicare for All plan was coming to be viewed as more moderate and favorable to health care insurers.
The stock rose as much as 7.5% on Friday afternoon, but moderated to a 5.3% gain to $269.40 by the close.
Warren's plan "sounds surprisingly similar to the public options proposed by Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg in particular and other moderates," wrote Evercore analyst Michael Newshel in a note on Friday. The plan "tacitly acknowledges the high political hurdles to passing Medicare-for-All," Newshel added, helping provide support to health care stocks. Warren is one of the frontrunners in the race for the Democratic nomination for president.
"We own UNH and CVS over at ActionAlerts Plus and we have long felt the managed care group reflected too much regulatory/political risks," said Jeff Marks, analyst for Jim Cramer's Action Alerts Plus Portfolio. "What we saw Friday is a slight lift to this overhang and should therefore be supportive of higher valuations in the future," Marks said.
Warren released her plan on her website this past week. The opening paragraph reads:
"My plan for health care reverses the Trump Administration's sabotage of our health care, allows everyone in America to choose a Medicare for All option for little or no cost, and cuts costs for families before moving us into full Medicare for All -- all in my first term."
Even with Friday's gains, UnitedHealth shares have only gained about 8% for 2019, far underperforming the S&P 500's gain of over 20%.
Other health insurer and health care stocks also rose significantly on Friday, including Anthem (ANTM) - Get Report (up 5.6%), Humana (HUM) - Get Report (up 5.5%), Cigna (CI) - Get Report (up 3.3%) and CVS (CVS) - Get Report (up 1.9%)