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Wall Street is still selling off health care stocks

In this image, two men sit at computers underneath large trading board screens at the new york stock exchange.
The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Yesterday, UnitedHealth Group posted $3.5 billion of profit in the first quarter — its second-most profitable quarter ever — and collected more than $60 billion of revenue.

Between the lines: UnitedHealth's stock price also tanked by 4%, which consequently dragged down shares of the other major health insurers and hospital chains. Cigna’s stock price plummeted 8%, and Anthem and Humana were close behind. HCA tumbled 10%.

  • Many investment bank analysts were perplexed by the sell-off, considering that UnitedHealth has more cash than it knows what to do with. 
  • Steven Halper of Cantor Fitzgerald wrote to investors: "What more can you ask for? Take advantage of poor sentiment."

Driving the news: Wall Street remains fearful of "Medicare for All" becoming a reality, and UnitedHealth CEO Dave Wichmann tried to get ahead of the message by telling investors that single-payer would "jeopardize" people’s care.

The big picture: Medicare for All discussions matter far more to Wall Street right now, and that makes the industry’s Q1 financial reports a lot less important.

Go deeper: Political uncertainty could bring volatility to health care stocks