Health Insurers Roar on Supreme Court Words (Update 1)

Updated from 1:02 p.m. ET with closing bell results

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Health insurers sang Thursday after some promising words from the U.S. Supreme Court about the fate of Obamacare.

Shares of UnitedHealth Group ( UNH), Aetna ( AET), Cigna ( CI), Coventry ( CVH), HealthNet ( HNT) and Humana ( HUM) all rose more than 3% a day after as the Supreme Court justices' rhetoric seemed to imply that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would either be upheld or rejected as a whole.

Health Insurance stocks are soaring after favorable U.S. Supreme Court hearings.

"I guess the insurers would be the most obvious ones -- ... without the mandate, the whole thing falls apart, and we're going to bear a greater cost, and so the rest of the law should be struck down," Chief Justice John Roberts said in Wednesday's oral arguments.

Of critical importance to health insurers has been the issue of the individual mandate and severability.

If the individual mandate is struck down but the rest of the law is upheld, it would leave health insurance companies exposed to the stipulation that requires insurers to provide health care to individuals regardless of pre-existing conditions.

"Relatively healthy people would just wait until they became sick, and then, you know, purchase a policy in the ambulance, so to speak," said Matthew Coffina, senior health care analyst at Morningstar.

That the justices may not sever the individual mandate means that they would likely either uphold the entire piece of legislation or else declare the whole law unconstitutional. Both scenarios could be a preferred alternative for health insurance stocks.

As such, shares of Aetna and UnitedHealth were hitting 52-week highs Thursday during intraday trading at $49.91 a share and $58.32 a share, respectively.

Shares of UnitedHealth finished higher Thursday at $58.10, up $2.66 or 4.8%; Aetna climbed to $49.56, up $3.04, or 6.5%; Cigna jumped to $48.96, up $1.89, or 4%; Coventry was at $34.61, up $1.95 or about 6%; HealthNet rose to $39.45, up $1.50, or about 4%; and Humana closed at $91.56, up $2.92, or 3.1%.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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