Are Obamacare Penalties Driving Americans to Buy Insurance?

From fears about Obamacare penalties to the latest breakthroughs in health-care research, The Motley Fool's Market Checkup drills down on the hottest headlines and biggest market movers in the health-care sector. This episode -- featuring a special guest appearance by Dan Caplinger, The Motley Fool's director of investment planning -- highlights a biotech stock that popped 40%, gives a full examination of the Affordable Care Act's debut week, and finishes off with two stocks poised to profit from Obamacare.

In the following video, Dan discusses with Fool health-care bureau chief Max Macaluso and health-care analyst David Williamson how various insurers are benefiting from Obamacare's opening success and the impact of Obamacare penalties on customer demand. Dan notes that WellPoint in particular has focused its attention on the Obamacare exchanges and stands to benefit more quickly from their success than rivals UnitedHealth Group , Cigna , and Aetna . Yet Dan also points out that we have yet to see whether many of those who went to health-exchange websites will actually buy insurance and, if they do, whether they'll go with exchange options from WellPoint and other exchange participants or seek outside products like the ones UnitedHealth and its peers offer.

David notes that investors in Cigna, Aetna, and UnitedHealth shouldn't be too alarmed if those companies fall behind, noting that they have reputations for being conservative. Dan concludes by speculating that many Americans could be concerned and intimidated by Obamacare penalties, describing how the penalties could impose extra costs of either $95 or 1% of income over a certain threshold, whichever is greater, for 2014. Although those penalties will rise substantially in future years, just the existence of a small penalty for 2014 seems to be enough to be driving Americans to get information about Obamacare, and that could help insurers throughout the industry in the long run.

Should you be scared of Obamacare?
Even if the penalty provisions under Obamacare aren't as draconian as some think, plenty of Americans have other worries about the law's future impact on their personal finances and the government's long-term fiscal viability. Learn more about how Obamacare will affect you by reading the Fool's special report on the Affordable Care Act. Inside, our top experts walk you through these opportunities and the companies that are positioned to exploit them. To access this free report instantly, simply click here now.

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Neither Dan Caplinger, Max Macaluso, Ph.D., nor David Williamson has any position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends UnitedHealth Group and WellPoint and owns shares of WellPoint. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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.

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