Surging Health Care Index Sets Another Record

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The S&P 500 Health Care Sector rose to a record high again Tuesday, led by managed care companies such as Humana and UnitedHealth Group.

It was the sixth-consecutive day that the index set a record. In July, it broke its all-time high set in December 2000.

Within the managed health care group, which is mostly responsible for the overall sector's gain, shares of CIGNA, Coventry Health Care and Aetna were also trading at multi-year highs.

So far this year, the health care group is up 17 percent, outperforming not only the broader market, but rest of the nine major S&P 500 sectors. The last time the sector was up this much in a quarter was in Q2 2000, when it rose 23 percent.

Tuesday's surge followed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announcement of an increase in the payment rate by 3.3 percent in 2014 for insurers that offer coverage through the popular Medicare Advantage program. (Read More: In Reversal, US to Raise Medicare Advantage Payment Rate)

Although the health care sector is traditionally considered a "defensive play" during economic downturns, the projected increase in both revenue and profit this year, as a result of major changes under the U.S. health care law, has helped many of these stocks move higher.

Here's a look at some of the largest managed-health care companies and their performance year-to-date.

Company Name
% Chg
% Chg YTD
WCG Wellcare Health Plans Inc. 62.3 3.8 28.3
HNT Health Net Inc. 29.7 2.3 22.6
CI Cigna Corporation 65.5 4 22.5
AET Aetna Inc. 54.5 4.2 17.9
HUM Humana Inc. 80.1 7.2 17.2
MOH Molina Healthcare Inc. 31.5 2.6 16.7
UNH UnitedHealth Group Inc. 62.6 5.8 15
WLP WellPoint Inc. 69.7 2.9 13.9
CNC Centene Corp. 44.9 1.4 10.2
CVH Coventry Health Care Inc. 48.3 1.8 7.9
MGLN Magellan Health Services Inc. 49.8 1.7 2.3