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How COVID-19 Is Helping and Hurting CVS Health

By Keith Speights and Brian Orelli, PhD - May 13, 2021 at 7:02AM

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The overall impact of the pandemic was a positive one for the company's Q1 results.

CVS Health (CVS -1.22%) recently reported its first-quarter results. The healthcare giant also raised its full-year outlook for 2021. In this Motley Fool Live video, recorded on May 5, 2021, Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli discuss CVS Health's Q1 update and how COVID-19 is both helping and hurting the company.

Keith Speights: Let's switch gears then to another big healthcare company reporting earnings, CVS Health. The ticker there is CVS, reported their earnings this week and the news wasn't quite as good for the company. Brian, what's your take?

Brian Orelli: Yeah. I think the overall revenue was at 3.5 percent, which doesn't seem all that great to me, but I don't think investors had already factored that low revenue increase if they'd taken that into account, and so I think the stock might have actually have gone up, even though 3.5 percent revenue growth doesn't seem like that great to me.

The healthcare benefits, which includes Aetna, their insurance arm, were up 6.7 percent, that was due to Medicare and Medicaid growth. The pharmacy services, which includes PBM, the pharmacy benefit management and mail order, that was up 3.8 percent.

Then the CVS Health and long-term care was up 2.3 percent. That benefited from COVID testing and vaccines, but there was a huge headwind in the year-ago quarter because, of course, that was when the start of the coronavirus happened and everybody was stocking up on medication and toilet paper, and so they had to compare year-over-year to the first quarter of 2020, and that caused the growth to only be 2.3 percent.

They did raise earnings guidance, adjusted earnings per share used to top out at $7.55, and the new guidance actually starts at $7.56 and then could be as high as $7.68. I almost think there should be a name for that where the bottom of your new guidance tops out above top of your old guidance because that's quite impressive and I think that's probably why the stock moved more than the 3.5 percent growth in their revenue.

Speights: Do you have any ideas for what that new name should be?

Orelli: I don't know, maybe we need to put it out to the Fools.

Speights: Yeah. Fools, weigh in if you have a good idea for a name.

Orelli: Or anything like spiffy pop.

Speights: Yeah. David Gardner could come up with a name for it for sure.

Orelli: I'm sure like five seconds.

Speights: Yeah.

Orelli: I think he has.

Speights: Yeah. Probably. Brian, it seems to me that COVID-19 is kind of a double-edged sword for CVS Health. It helps the company in some ways, obviously with people going into the stores to get vaccines, and then of course, the COVID-19 test.

The company now offers, I think, three products that don't require prescriptions where you can do at-home COVID-19 testing. So that kind of helps CVS Health, but on the other hand, the cough, cold, and flu season was especially weak, I think mainly due to COVID-19. That hurt CVS Health. The pandemic is benefiting and hindering the company's performance.

Orelli: Yeah. Although I think that as we get back into normal, maybe more people are going to be interested in just jumping into CVS and grab something quickly. They might be trying to avoid public areas when they are not vaccinated. I think that could help CVS going forward.

Brian Orelli, PhD has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Keith Speights has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends CVS Health. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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