Regardless of whether the U.S. economy is currently in a recession, there's no denying that the consensus among consumers is bleak. This is supported by a recent survey, which found that 62% believe the U.S. economy is already in a recession. 

As consumer confidence and spending patterns are altered to reflect these beliefs, a recession could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is why it's critical for investors to prepare their portfolios for an economic downturn -- and healthcare stocks are arguably smart picks. That's because these companies sell products that are needed in both good times and bad.

Consider the pharmacy operator and health insurance company CVS Health (CVS -0.13%). It could be a great buy now for investors concerned about the future of the economy.

Another quarter of defying analysts' predictions

The pharmacy operator is so well-established as a player in its industry that its nearly 10,000 drug stores are within 10 miles of 82% of the American population. 

When CVS Health shared financial results for the second quarter ended June 30 in early August, it again didn't fail to deliver. The company exceeded the analyst consensus for revenue and non-GAAP (adjusted) diluted earnings per share (EPS) during the quarter. 

CVS Health generated $80.6 billion in revenue in the second quarter, which was good enough for an 11% year-over-year growth rate. This easily surpassed the average analyst forecast of $76.4 billion in revenue for the quarter. How did the company pull off its 10th revenue beat in as many quarters? 

Strong performance in each of CVS Health's three core business segments was responsible for its better-than-expected revenue during the second quarter. The healthcare benefits segment posted $22.8 billion in revenue in the quarter, which was up 10.9% over the year-ago period. This was driven by a 3.8% year-over-year increase in medical membership to 24.4 million members for the quarter, as well as higher premiums collected from those members. 

CVS Health's pharmacy services segment logged $42.8 billion in revenue during the second quarter, which was 11.7% higher over the year-ago period. This double-digit growth was aided by increased pharmacy claims volume and growth in higher-priced specialty pharmacy products. 

Finally, the company's retail segment produced $26.3 billion in revenue in the quarter, which was a 6.3% year-over-year increase. Increased store traffic to fill prescriptions and the sale of COVID-19 over-the-counter test kits led to this boost in revenue. 

CVS Health reported $2.40 in adjusted diluted EPS during the second quarter, which was a 0.9% decline over the year-ago period. But this was still well above the analyst consensus of $2.16 for the quarter. This was the 10th quarter out of the last 10 quarters that the company came out ahead of the average analyst adjusted diluted EPS projection. 

CVS Health's higher revenue base was offset by a 50 basis point year-over-year decline in its non-GAAP net margin to 3.9% for the quarter. This downtick in profitability was only slightly neutralized by a 0.5% reduction in the company's outstanding share count to 1.3 billion. 

A person speaks with their pharmacist.

Image source: Getty Images.

A dividend you can trust

CVS Health's 2.2% dividend yield is significantly above the S&P 500 index's 1.5% yield. Better yet, the dividend appears to be reliable. 

The dividend payout ratio is about 26%, which is quite low and should allow for dividend growth greater than earnings growth for the foreseeable future. With analysts anticipating 5.8% annual adjusted diluted EPS growth through the next five years, I believe CVS Health is poised to deliver high-single-digit dividend growth for the foreseeable future. Needless to say, that's a good combination of current and future income. 

CVS Health is cheap for its quality

Down just 4% to date, CVS Health's stock has held pretty steady this year. Yet the stock still appears to be unloved by the market.

This is evidenced by CVS Health's forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 11.1. For context, this is much lower than the healthcare plan industry average forward P/E ratio of 16.4. This can only be partially explained by the fact that due to its pharmacy operations, CVS Health isn't a pure-play health insurer. Still, this seems to be a large discount to its peers. That's even considering that the company's 5.8% annual earnings growth forecast is meaningfully lower than the healthcare plans industry average of 12.7%. 

And if that wasn't enough, CVS Health's trailing 12-month price-to-free-cash-flow ratio of 8.3 is far below its 10-year median of 12.2. This makes the potential millionaire-maker stock a decent buy for patient investors.