NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The nation's health insurance companies have invested a lot in the Affordable Care Act. They have spent money setting rates they believe will be both competitive and profitable. Since they have done this in the absence of hard data on loss ratios -- it's hard to make estimates on marketplaces that don't exist -- they have taken on considerable risk. So if the ACA is such a bad deal, you'd assume traders would be selling these stocks as the health exchanges opened. You'd think the low prices being shown on most exchanges couldn't be sustained by experience, and that the insurers should be sold. That has not happened. On a day when the S&P 500 finished up 0.8%, here's how the biggest health insurers finished:
An even bigger gain was turned in by Health Net ( HNT), which worked to set up the exchanges. That stock was up 3.6%. And Walgreen ( WAG), which has reorganized around the ACA, with clinics that can manage chronic conditions for the newly insured, was up 4.54%.
Except for Universal American, which focuses on seniors with Medicare Advantage and Medicare supplement policies, all of these companies are near their yearly highs, most of which were achieved in mid-September, as hype over the exchanges began to reach a peak. There are some analysts who insist that the ACA benefits "only" these large insurers, and they may be right. In Germany and the Netherlands, which also organize their health care around mandatory insurance purchases, there are only a handful of companies providing coverage. Yet they cover everyone, for a fraction of the 18% of GDP we have paid to cover only some of us. Then I asked my wife to get some figures for me. In addition to being the family accountant, she's also "the money." She's made more than me for a decade now and earns every penny of it. Her employers like her, and she gets excellent health coverage, for which we pay about $200 a month, including vision and dental. Her employer matches her contribution 4-1, so our family's policies cost about $12,000 a year.