Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Why is this happening right now?

HMOs Jump As Wall Street Prices In Brown Victory

UnitedHealth (UNH) shot up nearly 5% in early morning trading, as HMOs and other medical stocks were among the market leaders. Wall Street seems to be pricing in a likely victory by Republican Scott Brown in today's Massachusetts Senate election.

A Brown win could upend Democrats' sweeping health care plans that would affect the entire medical industry. Drug giants Pfizer (PFE) and Merck (MRK) rose roughly 2%. Medical device maker Intuitive Surgical (ISRG) was up 2.5%....

CNBC's Jim Cramer has said a Brown win would trigger a "gigantic rally", citing HMOs specifically....

That, by the way, is from Investor's Business Daily, which, if you can imagine it, is even further to the right than The Wall Steet Journal.

The bill is much, much better than the medical bigwigs thought it would be, as far as their self-interest is concerned, but they'd still rather have the status quo. Yes, they held a fund-raiser for Coakley, but that was when they thought she'd win and assumed a bill was inevitable. They wanted to be sure she'd keep their interests in mind as the bill was finalized. Things are different now.

If the medical fat cats really do prefer what Democrats are working on to the status quo, then they'll prove it by helping to salvage it in the event of a Brown win. If they don't lift a finger, that means that everyone who told you that the reform process was constructed to give a gift to Big Medicine was wrong.

I'm not saying the bill is cause for hosannas. Far from it. I'm saying that, if the fat cats prefer the status quo to the bill, and are demonstrating this with their wallets, then the bill-writing Democrats must have managed to do something right.

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