NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With Anthem Inc. (ANTM) - Get Reportagreeing to acquireCigna Corp. (CI) - Get Report for nearly $50 billion, we decided to check TheStreet Quant Ratings to see if there are any good stocks in the "managed health care" sub-industry, worth taking a look at.

This merger will combine the second, and fifth largest companies, by revenue, in this sub-sector. The combined health insurance companies are projected to cover more than 53 million people, and have an annual revenue of about $115 billion.

Before this deal, TheStreet Quant Ratings rated Cigna an "A+" buy.

So, what are the best managed health care stocks investors should be buying? Here are the top three, according to TheStreet Ratings,TheStreet's proprietary ratings tool.

TheStreet Ratings projects a stock's total return potential over a 12-month period including both price appreciation and dividends. Based on 32 major data points, TheStreet Ratings uses a quantitative approach to rating over 4,300 stocks to predict return potential for the next year. The model is both objective, using elements such as volatility of past operating revenues, financial strength, and company cash flows, and subjective, including expected equities market returns, future interest rates, implied industry outlook and forecasted company earnings.

Buying an S&P 500 stock that TheStreet Ratings rated a buy yielded a 16.56% return in 2014 beating the S&P 500 Total Return Index by 304 basis points. Buying a Russell 2000 stock that TheStreet Ratings rated a buy yielded a 9.5% return in 2014, beating the Russell 2000 index, including dividends reinvested, by 460 basis points last year.

Check out which companies made the list. And when you're done, be sure to read about which exchanges to buy now. Year-to-date returns are based on July 27, 2015, closing prices. The highest-rated stock appears last.

Image placeholder title

AET

data by

YCharts

3. Aetna Inc.

(AET)


Rating: Buy, A+
Market Cap: $38.4 billion
Year-to-date return: 24.1%

Aetna Inc. operates as a health care benefits company in the United States. It operates through three segments: Health Care, Group Insurance, and Large Case Pensions.

"We rate AETNA INC (AET) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, growth in earnings per share, increase in net income, revenue growth and attractive valuation levels. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • Investors have apparently begun to recognize positive factors similar to those we have mentioned in this report, including earnings growth. This has helped drive up the company's shares by a sharp 32.54% over the past year, a rise that has exceeded that of the S&P 500 Index. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, AET should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • AETNA INC has improved earnings per share by 20.9% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, AETNA INC increased its bottom line by earning $5.66 versus $5.35 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($7.40 versus $5.66).
  • The company, on the basis of net income growth from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly outperformed against the S&P 500 and exceeded that of the Health Care Providers & Services industry average. The net income increased by 16.8% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $665.50 million to $777.50 million.
  • Despite its growing revenue, the company underperformed as compared with the industry average of 12.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 7.8%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
Image placeholder title

ANTM

data by

YCharts

2. Anthem, Inc.

(ANTM) - Get Report


Rating: Buy, A+
Market Cap: $40.1 billion
Year-to-date return: 20.6%

Anthem, Inc., through its subsidiaries, operates as a health benefits company in the United States. It operates through three segments: Commercial and Specialty Business, Government Business, and Other.

"We rate ANTHEM INC (ANTM) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income, revenue growth and largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • Powered by its strong earnings growth of 30.37% and other important driving factors, this stock has surged by 34.45% over the past year, outperforming the rise in the S&P 500 Index during the same period. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, ANTM should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • ANTHEM INC has improved earnings per share by 30.4% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, ANTHEM INC increased its bottom line by earning $8.95 versus $8.66 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($10.04 versus $8.95).
  • The company, on the basis of net income growth from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly outperformed against the S&P 500 and exceeded that of the Health Care Providers & Services industry average. The net income increased by 23.4% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $701.00 million to $865.20 million.
  • Despite its growing revenue, the company underperformed as compared with the industry average of 12.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 6.7%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • The debt-to-equity ratio is somewhat low, currently at 0.65, and is less than that of the industry average, implying that there has been a relatively successful effort in the management of debt levels. To add to this, ANTM has a quick ratio of 1.50, which demonstrates the ability of the company to cover short-term liquidity needs.
Image placeholder title

UNH

data by

YCharts

1. UnitedHealth Group Incorporated

(UNH) - Get Report


Rating: Buy, A+
Market Cap: $112.2 billion
Year-to-date return: 16.6%

UnitedHealth Group Incorporated operates as a diversified health and well-being company in the United States.

"We rate UNITEDHEALTH GROUP INC (UNH) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, impressive record of earnings per share growth, increase in net income, revenue growth and notable return on equity. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • Investors have apparently begun to recognize positive factors similar to those we have mentioned in this report, including earnings growth. This has helped drive up the company's shares by a sharp 38.85% over the past year, a rise that has exceeded that of the S&P 500 Index. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, UNH should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • UNITEDHEALTH GROUP INC has improved earnings per share by 15.5% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, UNITEDHEALTH GROUP INC increased its bottom line by earning $5.70 versus $5.50 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($6.32 versus $5.70).
  • The company, on the basis of net income growth from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly outperformed against the S&P 500 and exceeded that of the Health Care Providers & Services industry average. The net income increased by 12.6% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $1,408.00 million to $1,585.00 million.
  • Despite its growing revenue, the company underperformed as compared with the industry average of 12.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 11.3%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • The return on equity has improved slightly when compared to the same quarter one year prior. This can be construed as a modest strength in the organization. Compared to other companies in the Health Care Providers & Services industry and the overall market, UNITEDHEALTH GROUP INC's return on equity exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.