Here’s How the Presidential Debates Affected These 6 Healthcare Stocks

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Political analysts and commentators are in agreement — Mitt Romney’s aggressive tack in Wednesday’s debate gave him an edge over the incumbent President Obama.

The prospect that Obama, whose healthcare bill promised much needed aid to hospitals’ balance sheets, may not be guaranteed re-election caused shares throughout the healthcare industry to plunge Thursday morning, even though the broader market gained.

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Because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires more people to get coverage, the bill was expected to cut back on the so-called bad debt that appears on virtually all hospital balance sheets. Hospitals accrue this debt because they cannot turn patients away in emergencies. However, Romney has vowed to repeal the bill which would force hospitals to continue writing down large amounts of revenue because of those unable to pay for medical care.

Shares in Community Health Systems (NYSE:CYH) declined the most of any healthcare stock, falling 3.4 percent. HCA Holdings (NYSE:HCA), the nation’s largest hospital company, was down three percent, Tenet Healthcare (NYSE:THC) dropped 3 percent, and LifePoint Hospitals (NASDAQ:LPNT) dropped 3 percent.

In contrast, health insurers, who can expect increased revenue from the bill’s repeal, saw stock prices rise. WellPoint’s (NYSE:WLP) shares rose 3 percent and Aetna (NYSE:AET) increased 2.4 percent.

CRT Capital Group analyst Sheryl Skolnick said this morning in a note to clients, “After an at-best lackluster and at-worst pitiful performance by President Obama in last night’s debate, health care investors have to be wondering this morning whether the reform-on play of the last several weeks is the right one going into the Nov. 6 election.”

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