Famed investor Warren Buffett once called the high cost of health care a "tapeworm eating at our economic body." While he might be disgusted by the costs, it hasn't stopped him from profiting from it though share purchases by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A).
Investment idea #1: Big pharma Buffett owns shares of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Sanofi SA (ADR) (NYSE:SNY), and GlaxoSmithKline plc (ADR) (NYSE:GSK), but recently pared back his ownership of Johnson & Johnson.
Johnson & Johnson stock has been on a terror lately, so it shouldn't be all that surprising that Buffett would lighten up, especially after an extended period of the company struggling with recalls when selling low probably wasn't the best idea. Investors should probably consider following Buffett's investment idea, especially if Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) has become a large portion of your portfolio.
Credit: Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ)
I honestly don't see what Buffett sees in Sanofi SA (ADR) (NYSE:SNY) and GlaxoSmithKline plc (ADR) (NYSE:GSK); both have patent expiration issues. He's owned them for years, and neither is a particularly large holding, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend following his investment.
The investment thesis seems to be a combination of a well-run company -- DaVita's large size allows it to negotiate discounts for drugs and devices needed to treat dialysis patients -- and the business model is fairly easy to understand, unlike drugmakers or medical device companies.
DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc (NYSE:DVA) isn't cheap -- shares are up 29% over the last year, but if DaVita can continue growing earnings at the same clip, following Buffett's investment idea could be a nice investment over the next few years.
Investment idea #3: What not to buy We can learn as much about the areas of health care that Buffett doesn't own as we can from his purchases.
Berkshire used to own shares of health insurers WellPoint, Inc. (NYSE:WLP) and UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE:UNH) but Buffett said they were picks from Lou Simpson, who managed the investment portfolio of Berkshire's subsidiary Geico. The shares were sold a few years ago, about the same time that Simpson retired.
Still, Buffett's lack of interest in health insurers is interesting. Berkshire owns other insurance companies, such as Geico, so maybe Buffett just figures that Berkshire doesn't need any further exposure to companies that make turn a profit by investing premiums. Or maybe the regulation of health insurers, including Obamacare, makes them a little too unstable for Buffett.
Buffett has also avoided smaller drug developers. I've previously covered reasons for his distaste and why some of the reasons aren't applicable to individual investors.
The article 3 Health Care Investment Ideas From Warren Buffett originally appeared on Fool.com and is written by Brian Orelli.
Fool contributor Brian Orelli has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE:UNH), and WellPoint, Inc. (NYSE:WLP). The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Johnson & Johnson, and WellPoint.
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