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(Reuters) - Shares of U.S. hospital operators fell after Republican nominee Mitt Romney's strong showing in Wednesday's U.S. presidential debate raised doubts about the future of President Obama's healthcare reform.
Hospital operators Tenet Healthcare Corp, HCA Holdings Inc, Healthsouth Corp and HCP Inc were all down between 1 percent and 3 percent Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.
The Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, as it is popularly known, has set forth a mandate that will force millions of Americans to buy health insurance by 2014. This will free hospitals from bearing the costs of treating uninsured patients.
Romney's perceived win in the debate accounted for the negative outlook on hospital stocks on Thursday, Wells Fargo Securities analyst Gary Lieberman said.
"Hospitals had been rallying on the likelihood of Obama's healthcare reform getting implemented as it looked like he had pulled ahead in polls," Lieberman said.
But Romney's Wednesday performance showed the race was tightening, increasing the risk to hospital stocks, RBC Capital Markets analyst Frank Morgan said.
Reporting By Pallavi Ail in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty