Healthcare ETFs Deteriorate on Congress' Threats to Drug Prices

Healthcare sector-specific ETFs took a blow Friday after the U.S. Congress threatened legislative action on rising costs of prescription drugs and the Trump administration challenged former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Among the worst performing non-leveraged ETFs of Friday, the iShares U.S. Healthcare Providers ETF (NYSEArca: IHF) decreased 3.0%. Meanwhile, the more widely observed Health Care Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLV) fell 0.9% and tested its long-term support at the 200-day simple moving average.

Healthcare insurers received the brunt of the hit Friday, with insurers like Anthem (NYSE: ANTM), Humana (NYSE: HUM) and UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) among the worst off. IHF includes a 22.1% tilt toward UNH, 12.9% to ANTM and 3.9% to HUM. XLF includes a  6.6% position in UNH, 2.1% in ANTM and 1.0% in HUM.

Executives from CVS Health, Cigna, Prime Therapeutics, Humana and UnitedHealth’s OptumRx all testified on rising prescription drug costs before the Senate Finance Committee earlier this week, CNBC reports. After the hearing, Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, hinted the committee was ready to write down new laws to bring drug prices under control.

Ana Gupte, Leerink Partners senior health-care services analyst, argued that the health-care sell off was mostly driven by the proposed legislative changes to Pharmacy Benefit Managers’ business model, which are paid rebates by Big Pharma for drugs coverage under private and public insurance plans, such as Medicare. Lawmakers suspect the so-called backdoor deals have increased drug costs for patients.

It is “very likely” lawmakers will force drug companies to give rebates to consumers instead, starting as early as next year, Gupte said.

Further weighing on the healthcare sector, a federal appeals court in New Orleans it will hear arguments on a lawsuit backed by President Donald Trump to overturn Obamacare. Actions to reverse the healthcare law could create 32 million more uninsured people in the U.S. by 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

For more information on the healthcare segment, visit our healthcare category.