Gentiva Health Services Shares Plunged: What You Need to Know

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of home-health-care specialist Gentiva Health Services (NAS: GTIV) are nose-diving 16% today following reports that Congress has apparently reached a deal to avert the looming debt-ceiling crisis.

So what: The worry is that the outlined debt-reduction package is going to sack the health-care sector, including home-health-care providers. Social Security, Medicaid, and veterans' benefits are protected from automatic reductions, but companies that receive payments from Medicare could be facing a serious pinch later this year when payments would be scheduled to drop by 11%. Gentiva is one of those companies, along with myriad other health-care companies taking it on the chin today.

Now what: I don't feel it's ever too early to be skeptical about a stock, but short-sellers may be jumping the gun on a relatively well-run company. Again, we have a lot of unanswered questions as to exactly how much we might see in spending cutbacks for Medicare, but Gentiva's forward P/E of 5.6, and the fact that it now trades well below its book value, makes it an attractive company to watch. With larger rival Amedisys (NAS: AMED) also valued at just 8.3 times forward earnings, this could be a seriously undervalued sector.

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