In the second half of April, I wrote about the waning sentiment toward CVS Health (NYSE:CVS). On the surface, CVS stock has the necessary components to move higher. Obviously, the company is in the business of health care, which is typically not an optional endeavor for people. Second, CVS offers diverse coverage in this segment with its pharmacy benefit manager business.
At the same time, CVS Health stock has components that don’t favor a higher market value. One of those anchors is debt. At nearly $68 billion from its last quarterly report, that’s a hefty load. Plus, health care represents a lucrative sector for companies desperate to expand beyond their boundaries. While I wouldn’t characterize Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) as desperate, Jeff Bezos and friends are certainly willing to disrupt this segment.
As a result, CVS stock has a credibility dilemma that the markets don’t feel the underlying organization has effectively addressed. While I adopted the cautiously optimistic approach to the retail-pharmacy giant, shares have moved like I reasonably expected. This is a name that will require a strong stomach and significant patience, as at yesterday’s $53.17 close, the shares are less than 3% off the low-end of their 52-week range.
But if that’s you, I think CVS Health stock provides an interesting platform. Here are three reasons why:
Automation Can’t Touch CVS Stock
For many folks, especially in the rust belt of America, automation is a scary word. In fact, it’s the central catalyst that has sparked political firebrand Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign. Consistently, Yang argues that we’re in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution that will displace millions of workers.
Furthermore, the Democratic candidate points the finger at Amazon. While the e-commerce giant is the internet age’s flagship success story, it also disrupted small businesses throughout the country. The fear is that CVS stock, as part of the broader retail-investment landscape, will face automation at some point.
I don’t think that will happen. I’ll go out on a limb and say that it will never happen. This forecast bodes well for CVS Health stock, if I’m right.
Let me hedge that by saying this: automation will certainly replace or substantially modify health care’s administrative components. I’m not breaking new ground with this statement because it’s already happening.
But the medical and pharmaceutical industries involve variances. We still don’t know much about the human body and its reaction to outside stimuli. That’s obvious when you consider the raging opioid crisis.
More critically, humans can make executive decisions that save lives. Perhaps a patient’s allergy history makes a particular drug unsafe, or an obviously pregnant patient may have complications from an apparently mistaken prescription: artificial intelligence is so far unable to make such dynamic decisions. However, they’re a routine part of the current pharmacy life.
Politics Offer a Tailwind for CVS Health Stock
Like most Americans, I’m incredibly confused about the healthcare system. As a contrarian, I consider that a blessing. I really don’t want to be an expert on this subject because it probably means I’m not doing too well.
That said, what I do know about health care in America is that it’s outrageously expensive. Becoming a medical doctor used to be a noble profession. Now, it merely seems like a pathway to riches. I love what Yang has to say about this topic: we spend the most on healthcare yet receive the worst results.
You don’t have to pull up wonky charts and graphs to understand the problem. As I mentioned in my last article about CVS stock, hundreds of thousands of Americans travel to Mexico each year to receive significant discounts on prescription drugs.
That right there proves we have a disconnect in the system: how can patients who are only separated by arbitrary borders pay radically different drug prices? Clearly, the drugs themselves aren’t that expensive to produce. Instead, we have bloated bureaucracies that have exponentially skyrocketed healthcare costs to untenable levels for many families.
Fortunately, it appears Washington finally has the political will to address this escalating crisis. In the long run, I see this dynamic as a net positive for CVS stock. Theoretically, the pharmacy will gain business that’s currently going off the books to Mexico. Additionally, millions of patients will have access to reasonable healthcare costs, eliminating the incentive to skimp on medication.
CVS Offers a Trusted Brand Name
Apparently, it’s in vogue to go bearish on CVS Health stock and similar names like Walgreens Boots Alliance (NASDAQ:WBA). With disruptive competitors lurking in the shadows, there doesn’t seem to be much room in this segment.
But as much as I like Amazon and its ilk, I’m not sure if they can disrupt health care like they have other industries. The biggest difference I see is that health care is obviously intimate and personal. As such, people will not always make economically rational decisions here.
For instance, if you’re in the market for LASIK eye surgery, price isn’t the deciding factor. Instead, it’s skill and a very long track record of success. Your vision is an attribute that is truly priceless. You’re not going to trust your eyes to a doctor with a degree from Trump University.
In the same framework, CVS ranks as one of Fortune’s “World’s Most Admired Companies.” I’m not surprised. Whenever I have medicinal needs, I run to CVS, as do millions of others. They know what they’re doing. The company also hires many of the best medical professionals.
Amazon? I like them for purchasing books, clothes, and electronic devices. But I’ll pass on their drugs. As long as overall costs are reasonable, the track record for CVS stands above the rest.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.