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Cyberattacks can disrupt corporations, and you’ve seen that play out in recent weeks. UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) fell roughly $14 billion behind in paying claims after a hacker group attacked Change Healthcare, UnitedHealth’s technology subsidiary, which processes claims.

The attack meant providers couldn’t be paid, stressing the healthcare system and forcing UnitedHealth to advance loans to keep care providers afloat. It’s a black eye for the company, and the stock has backpedaled from its 52-week high.

Despite the recent chaos, this temporary setback could be a buying opportunity for long-term investors.

UnitedHealth is a crucial cog in the healthcare system

Insurance companies are at the core of a primarily privatized U.S. healthcare system, and they don’t get larger than UnitedHealth Group. The country’s leading insurer provides benefits or care for 152 million people, and the business extends beyond insurance to care services, technology systems, and more.

UnitedHealth is so central to healthcare that it’s doubtful this hack will affect the company over the long run. Sure, there could be some monetary damage from the attack, but providers aren’t going to stop accepting UnitedHealth insurance. It’s a powerful network effect, as it’s accepted virtually everywhere (1.5 million doctors and 6,200 hospitals across the U.S.), so providers have to accept it if they want patients to seek care.

The moral of this story? UnitedHealth is intertwined with American healthcare. You don’t just rip that out of the system. It’s a powerful moat, and it means that the long-term effect of this hack will be negligible for investors. Instead, investors can focus on what the business itself offers.

What does UnitedHealth offer investors?

Financially speaking, UnitedHealth is a tremendous business. It’s one of the world’s largest corporations; annual revenue exceeds $370 billion, and $25 billion of free cash flow. Management takes those profits and simultaneously repurchases shares and grows its shareholder dividend.

UNH Dividend data by YCharts

UnitedHealth has raised its dividend for 14 consecutive years, and the payout ratio is still just 26%, leaving plenty of room for future increases. Meanwhile, the share count has declined by over 6% this decade, helping boost earnings growth. UnitedHealth repeats this winning formula as the company grows increasingly larger. The U.S. healthcare system is worth over $4.5 trillion in annual spending, so the company hasn’t run out of room to grow despite its enormous size.

A fair price tag makes UnitedHealth a buy

Analysts have cooled on UnitedHealth somewhat, lowering their long-term earnings growth estimates to about 10.4%. Naturally, the stock price has fallen with it, and the bad publicity of the cyberattack didn’t help things.

But at less than 18 times earnings, it’s hard to pass up such a juggernaut in such an important industry. UnitedHealth has traded at an average of 21 times earnings over the past decade, making today’s 18 earnings multiple a notable discount.

If the company meets estimates, that price/earnings-to-growth (PEG) ratio of 1.7 is a fair price for a company of UnitedHealth’s quality and expected growth. I’d feel comfortable nibbling on shares here and buying more aggressively if the stock continues sliding. Outperforming these lower expectations could make the stock look cheaper in hindsight.

UNH PE Ratio (Forward) data by YCharts

UnitedHealth is a very high-quality business and a dominant player in the lucrative U.S. healthcare system. These types of companies don’t usually go on sale, so the recent black eye of this cyberattack is offering investors a chance to pay a fair price for this blue chip stock while the broader market surges at all-time highs.

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Justin Pope has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends UnitedHealth Group. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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