Five Stocks That May Get a Huge Lift From the Affordable Care Act

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The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is often known, has gotten off to a highly publicized rocky start. The failure of the website to be up to speed and other issues have slowed down the process to sign-up people looking to enroll in insurance plans. Slowly but surely it appears that the issues are being worked out. For the years leading up to the implementation, Wall Street cast a wary eye at companies that would be affected by the program. Now that the dust is settling, Wall Street analysts that cover the sectors involved are turning decidedly more positive.

In a new research report, the Healthcare Technology and Distribution team at J.P. Morgan has completed some exhaustive work and narrowed down the list of stocks that should get the largest boost from the program. One thing seems to be clear, the pharmacy benefit managers (PBM) and the dental distributors could prove to be the big winners from the business that is directed their way from the big insurance plans and companies. Here are the top stocks to buy that made the cut at J.P. Morgan.

Catamaran Corp. (NASDAQ: CTRX) provides PBM services and health care information technology solutions to the health care benefits management industry in North America. J.P. Morgan believes the company’s growth profile, potential upside to synergy targets from recent acquisitions and the chance to expand into the large employer market should drive outperformance in shares. The target price for the stock is $66. The Thomson/First Call consensus estimate is lower at $62.51. Catamaran closed Wednesday at $48.50.

CVS Caremark Corp. (NYSE: CVS) made big headlines when it announced it would discontinue the sale of any tobacco products. In a world that has gone increasingly smoke-free, this may prove to be a very wise public relations move. The J.P. Morgan analysts point to a consistent trend of quarterly earnings beats over the past few quarters. In their view, potential earnings per share upside could generally be driven by better-than-expected retail script volumes, better-than-expected profitability per claim metrics on the PBM side, as well as share buybacks. Investors are paid a 1.7% dividend. The J.P. Morgan price target is $82. The consensus target is $75.94. Shares closed Wednesday at $65.44.

Express Scripts Holding Co. (NASDAQ: ESRX) provides a range of PBM services, primarily in the United States and Canada. It offers health care management and administration services on behalf of its clients. The J.P. Morgan team believes the company will guide to fiscal year 2014 adjusted earnings per share of $4.85 to $4.95, which represents 12% to 15% growth over the midpoint of the current 2013 guidance. Importantly, they believe this range is likely to prove conservative. The J.P. Morgan price target is $83, and the consensus is lower at $75.82. The stock closed Wednesday at $73.29.

Omnicare Inc. (NYSE: OCR) operates as a health care services company that specializes in the management of pharmaceutical care in the United States and Canada. The company operates in two segments, Long-Term Care Group and Specialty Care Group. It provides pharmaceuticals and related pharmacy and ancillary services to long-term care facilities, as well as chronic care facilities and other settings. Investors are paid a 1.3% dividend. The J.P. Morgan price target is $64, while consensus is at $63.89. Omnicare closed Wednesday at $60.71.

Premier Inc. (NASDAQ: PINC) operates as a health care alliance that unites hospitals, health systems, physicians and other health care providers in the United States. The company’s Supply Chain Services segment provides its members with access to a range of products and services, including medical and surgical products, pharmaceuticals, laboratory supplies, capital equipment, information technology, food and nutritional products, and construction and janitorial services. It also operates specialty pharmacies, as well as offers ASCEND Collaborative for members to receive group purchasing programs, tiers and prices. The J.P. Morgan analysts currently project Supply Chain Services revenue of $150 million, which is up 6.6% year over year, driven by new customer wins and faster growth in the specialty pharmacy and direct sourcing businesses. The J.P. Morgan price target is $36, and the consensus is $34.70. Premier closed Wednesday at $33.78.

The common thread for all of these top stocks to buy is they are ancillary operators that deal with patient needs by providing medicines, medical and surgical products and other items used in the care of a patient. They themselves do not actually care directly for the patient. That removes the liability to a large degree and helps them focus on margin gains. With an aging population, customer and patient needs will only continue to grow.

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