We are just days away from getting an official ruling from the Supreme Court on whether the Affordable Care Act -- more fondly known as Obamacare -- is constitutionally legal.
The implications are immense as health-care spending currently accounts for $2.7 trillion, or 18%, of the United States' GDP. There's pretty much not a financial news source you can turn to right now that isn't discussing the possible benefits and pitfalls of this landmark legislation. But what hasn't been discussed much is the one often overlooked sector that looks poised to grow regardless of whether Obamacare is approved, rejected, or piecemealed through the Supreme Court.
The sector in question is electronic medical records and its prospects have never looked brighter.
Make EMR your star
When Obamacare was enacted in 2009, one of the provisions placed in the bill was that health-care companies would be required to transition from using paper to digital platforms. Whether or not Obamacare passes will be trivial, as this transition is too far along now to be interrupted. If you really want to play the cloud-computing market, then look no further than the following EMR companies.
The two EMR names that immediately come to my mind are Cerner (Nasdaq: CERN ) and Quality Systems (Nasdaq: QSII ) . Cerner is by far the largest company in the sector and has grown sales by nearly 10% over the past five years. Quality Systems has run into recent order delays (possibly due to hospitals holding back on spending until after the decision on Obamacare is made), but is still predicting 20% to 24% sales growth in fiscal 2012.
There's something for everyone
But these two companies are just the tip of the iceberg. Smaller players Merge Healthcare (Nasdaq: MRGE ) , MedAssets (Nasdaq: MDAS ) , and athenahealth (Nasdaq: ATHN ) are also in line to benefit.
Merge Healthcare's iConnect technology allows hospitals and imaging centers to exchange information with one another electronically. Merge recently inked a radiology deal with Lakeland Healthcare and analysts project it will turn its first annual profit since 2004 next year.
MedAssets operates in two segments: spend and clinical resource management, which covers cost management and supply chain analytics for hospitals, and revenue cycle management, which assists with claims processing and revenue recovery. Although it has been liberal with its spending, MedAssets looks cheap considering its forward P/E ratio of 10.5 compared to an estimated growth rate over 13% for the next five years.
Ongoing billing and clinical-related information technology provider athenahealth has already seen huge gains and boasts a robust earnings multiple. athenahealth's first-quarter results marked its 49th consecutive quarter of revenue growth and Wall Street is predicting it will grow by 27% annually over the next five years.
Forecast: Cloudy with plenty of profits
The groundwork has been laid for EMR companies to succeed whether or not Obamacare passes. If you're tired of the back-and-forth of guessing in health care, look no further than these cloud growth stories.
Did I leave out your favorite EMR play or fail to give enough praise to your top pick? Tell me about it in the comments section below and consider adding these stocks to your free and personalized watchlist.
With the U.S. elections also around the corner, our team of analysts at Motley Fool Stock Advisor realizes there's more at stake for stocks than just what we're witnessing in the health-care sector. Find out which stocks could benefit based on which president-elect wins in our latest special report. Get your free copy by clicking here!
- Add Cerner to My Watchlist.
- Add Quality Systems to My Watchlist.
- Add Merge Healthcare to My Watchlist.
- Add MedAssets to My Watchlist.
- Add athenahealth to My Watchlist.