Many expressed skepticism when CVS Health (NYSE:CVS) first announced its plans to acquire Aetna in 2017. But from the beginning, CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo has remained consistent in his belief that the deal would pay off for investors by generating higher profits and faster growth.

CVS Health announced its third-quarter results before the market opened. And Merlo's early optimism about the Aetna acquisition appears to be warranted. Here are three things you'll really like about CVS Health's Q3 results.

Smiling female pharmacist in a retail pharmacy store

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Impressive revenue and earnings beats 

CVS Health generated revenue in the third quarter of $64.8 billion, a 36.5% year-over-year increase. This result also easily beat the consensus Wall Street Q3 revenue estimate of $62.99 billion.

The healthcare giant announced third-quarter net income of $1.53 billion, or $1.17 per share, based on generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). CVS Health reported earnings of $1.39 billion, or $1.36 per share, in the prior-year period. The decrease on a per-share basis resulted from an increase in outstanding shares in connection with the Aetna acquisition.

The company reported adjusted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.84 in the third quarter, up 6.4% year over year. This figure came in well above the average analyst's adjusted EPS estimate of $1.77.

2. Across-the-board growth

As expected, Aetna delivered much of CVS Health's revenue and earnings growth. Sales for CVS Health's healthcare-benefits segment, which includes Aetna and the Silverscript Medicare Part D prescription-drug-plan business, skyrocketed to $17.2 billion from $641 million in the third quarter of 2018.

But CVS Health also enjoyed modest growth across the board with all of its business segments. Revenue for its pharmacy services segment increased by 6.4% year over year to a little over $36 billion. This growth stemmed mainly from high prices for brand drugs and an increased pharmacy claims volume.

Sales for the company's retail/long-term care segment rose by 2.9%, to $21.5 billion. Increased prescription volume and higher prices for brand drugs were the primary growth drivers. CVS' front-store revenue was also boosted by stronger sales for health and beauty products. CVS said that the sales increase for these products "benefited from continued strength in cough and cold products."

3. Higher full-year guidance

Thanks to its solid performance in the third quarter, CVS Health again raised and narrowed its full-year 2019 guidance. The company now expects full-year GAAP operating income between $11.77 billion and $11.95 billion, up from its previous outlook of $11.82 billion to $12.02 billion.

CVS looks for full-year adjusted operating income between $15.22 billion and $15.4 billion. The company previously projected full-year adjusted operating income between $15.16 billion and $15.36 billion.

The company also now anticipates full-year 2019 GAAP diluted EPS from continuing operations will be between $4.90 and $4.98, compared to its prior guidance of between $4.93 and $5.04. CVS Health projects full-year adjusted EPS between $6.97 and $7.05, up from its previous outlook of adjusted EPS between $6.89 and $7.00. The midpoint of the company's adjusted EPS range is $0.03 higher than the consensus Wall Street full-year estimate.

A few things to dislike

While CVS Health provided plenty for investors to like with its Q3 results, there were a few things to dislike, as well. The company noted that "continued price compression and an increased generic dispensing rate" held back sales growth for its pharmacy-services segment. This increased generic dispensing rate along with continued reimbursement pressures also weighed on sales for the retail/LTC segment.

But investing in healthcare stocks like CVS Health nearly always comes with some things to like and some things not to like. Overall, the company appears to be delivering just as it said it would when it first announced the Aetna acquisition.

What's next for CVS Health? As year-over-year comparisons include Aetna's business in prior-year periods, CVS Health's growth won't look as impressive as they did in Q3. Merlo said, "Looking ahead, we remain focused on successful execution of our strategic priorities and integration plans to unleash the full potential of our consumer-centric healthcare model and create value for all stakeholders." If CVS Health manages to unleash that full potential, there could be a lot more to like with this stock in the future.