President Barack Obama spoke publicly on Monday about the problems that millions of Americans have experienced with the health insurance exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Here are three important takeaways from his remarks for investors.
1. 85% of Americans don't need to sign up
One of the first statements out of Obama's mouth was that 85% of Americans who have health insurance coverage through their employers, Medicare, or Medicaid don't have to sign up through the federal or state exchanges. This is a key point that is easy to forget. However, don't think for a minute that Obamacare isn't impacting these individuals.
Investors should watch how the health reform legislation is directly and indirectly affecting the business landscape, including those who don't have to purchase insurance through the exchanges. One important trend to note is the growth of private health insurance exchanges.
Aon (NYSE:AON), for example, operates private health exchanges through its Aon Hewitt division. The company's research found that 44% of employers could move to private exchanges within the next three to five years. This is a shift that should cause investors to sit up and take notice. Aon could be a stock to watch as this trend unfolds.
2. It's not just a website
While Obama talked about a "tech surge" to fix problems plaguing the Obamacare federal exchange website, Healthcare.gov, he also explained that "it's not just a website." His point was that there are other ways to sign up for health insurance, including over the phone.
The president's comment is correct in an even larger way. Obamacare could fundamentally change how millions of Americans access health care. There are multiple ways that this could benefit private companies.
Pharmacy retailers should benefit as individuals gain health insurance that allows them to purchase prescription drugs that were unaffordable to them in the past. Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD) could be a stock to watch for investors interested in that angle. The company has made a remarkable turnaround over the last year, including setting an all-time record for EBITDA last quarter. Rite Aid could keep its momentum going thanks in part to the "more-than-a-website" law.
3. No sugar coating
Acknowledging the myriad difficulties experienced by users, President Obama said that there's "no sugarcoating" the problems. Sure, the president attempted to put as positive of a spin as possible on what's happened, insisting that "the product [i.e., the health insurance itself] is good." However, that's what you would expect of any politician speaking about his or her major legislative achievement.
From an investing standpoint, it makes sense to not sugarcoat the overall impact of Obamacare. Some stocks could suffer from the Obamacare rollout. WellPoint (NYSE:ANTM), for example, could encounter higher medical costs -- and lower profits -- if one of the company's key rivals proves to be correct.
UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH) CEO Stephen Hemsley warned earlier this year that the initial enrollees coming through the Obamacare exchanges could have pent-up medical demand. Because of this fear, UnitedHealth and some other big insurers opted to stay away from most of the state exchanges.
WellPoint, however, jumped aboard exchanges in every state where the company operates. That bet could pay off if many Americans enroll in its plans and Hemsley's concern doesn't pan out. However, if the UnitedHealth CEO turns out to be right, WellPoint's bottom line could suffer. For his part, the president tried to help companies like WellPoint by encouraging young individuals to sign up, stating that the plans "are not just for old folks like me."
Obama confessed that he was frustrated and that there was "no excuse for the problems." However, he said the federal government was "doing everything we can possibly do" to get the websites working properly.
Whatever your take on the controversial health reform legislation, it's smart to do everything you can to invest in a way to profit from the major changes under way. With one of the biggest changes happening as we watch to a sector that comprises nearly one-fifth of the nation's economy, there's no excuse for missing out.
Fool contributor Keith Speights has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Aon, UnitedHealth Group, and WellPoint. The Motley Fool owns shares of Aon and WellPoint. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.