3 Top Health Care Buys

There are good buying opportunities in companies like CVS Caremark (NYSE: CVS  ) , Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  ) and UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH  ) .

In fact, the broader health care consumer sector has performed well in 2013 despite flaws in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act's multimillion-dollar website and widespread reports of people losing their health care coverage. These companies should continue to perform well if and when Obamacare overcomes its hiccups -- or even if it doesn't.

That being said, this article is not about the troubled website or the merits of Obamacare, but rather a discussion of investment opportunities in the health care sector.

CVS Caremark's generics prescription
CVS Caremark is a leader in generic drug sales and continues its advance into the consumer goods retail sector. While the profit driver for CVS is pharmaceutical sales, the chain's customers are steered toward an array of dry grocery goods, milk and refrigerated goods, beer and wine options, health and beauty supplies, and more.

CVS also offers pharmacy benefit management services like mail-order prescriptions, which were a good source of revenue in the third quarter.

Moreover, the retail chain provides Medicare Part D assistance, as well as discounted drug purchase agreements with various employers and corporations. Finally, CVS plans to expand its mini-clinics to capitalize on anticipated changes the delivery of health care services as a result of the ACA.

These developments allowed the retail pharmacy to post an impressive third quarter, with earnings rising 25% on solid revenue growth in its pharmacy services business. Net revenues increased $1.4 billion, or 7.8%, to $19.5 billion in the three months ended Sept. 30. The drugstore operator raised its per-share earnings estimate for the year from $3.94 to $3.97.

CVS stock is currently hovering at the $65 mark -- a 52-week high -- and the price was about $51 and change in the first quarter. If Obamacare gets over the flu, CVS is poised for future growth since the health care reform measure will enhance the chain's sales of generic drugs.

Johnson & Johnson tarnished by $2 billion settlement 
Johnson & Johnson is a leader in health care medical services. The company's earnings derive from prescription drug sales, demand for its medical devices, and a broad array of consumer packaged goods.

The biggest challenge presently facing Johnson & Johnson is healing from the recently announced $2 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and 45 states. The legal case concerned federal investigations and state Medicaid claims centered on the company's promotional practices of the anti-depressant Risperdal from 1999 through 2005.

The company previously set the $2 billion aside, however, and no additional charges will affect the company's earnings. This is surely a black eye for Johnson & Johnson, but it's just a small blot on its balance sheet.

Moreover, despite the war cry of GOP lawmakers who oppose the ACA-mandated medical device tax (effective as of Jan. 1, 2013), the tax doesn't seem to have harmed Johnson & Johnson's earnings. In fact, the company noted in its third quarter report that the cost of the excise tax for 2013 is estimated to be about $200 million-$250 million.

Overall, Johnson & Johnson reported solid third-quarter numbers from continued strong sales of prescription drugs and medical devices. The drug manufacturer continues to be a cash cow, as the company said cash and cash equivalents were $17.2 billion at the end of the fiscal third quarter of 2013 as compared to $14.9 billion at the end of the 2012 fiscal year.

With that kind of cash on hand, the company can pay the $2 billion settlement and the medical device tax while continuing to boost its revenue through long-term sales of prescription drugs and medical devices.

UnitedHealth Group a leader in health care management 
UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH  ) specializes in health care management services like secured management plans for self-insured employers. The insurance company is also an industry leader in Medicare supplemental insurance and other retirement benefits.

This includes prescription coverage to fill the so-called "doughnut hole" in Medicare plans. These factors will continue to be a mote against the ACA invasion. The company's third quarter saw revenue climb by 12% and this was attributed to acquisitions, and in particular to a deal with the Brazilian outfit Amil that was announced in October.

The big mystery is the extent to which the health care exchanges currently veiled in the Obamacare website will affect United Health Groups market share. The company is participating in the new exchanges in some states, however, website glitches notwithstanding.

The bottom line
Obviously, the ACA launch has revealed serious flaws in the reform measure that may call for revisions and other remedies. In the meantime, investors with a long-term view can find good opportunities in CVS Caremark, Johnson & Johnson, and United Healthcare.

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