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CVS beats Q4 sales and earnings projections

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Company cuts 2024 profit outlook.

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health topped analysts’ forecasts for fourth quarter sales and profits, but cut its full year earnings outlook, citing rising medical costs that are hurting the insurance industry.

Revenue for the three months ended December 31 climbed 11.9% from the year-ago period to $93.81 billion, beating Wall Street’s estimate of $90.41 billion.

Adjusted earnings per share increased 3.9% to $2.12, exceeding the consensus projection of $1.99.

Karen Lynch

Karen Lynch

“With a focus on delivering care and value, we had a strong fourth quarter and full year in 2023 as we build a world of health around every consumer,” said president and CEO Karen Lynch. “We will continue to drive affordable access to care when, where, and how people want, while we improve transparency throughout the health care system.”

The company revised its full year 2024 GAAP diluted EPS guidance to at least $7.06 from at least $7.26 and its adjusted EPS guidance to at least $8.30 from at least $8.50. It also revised its 2024 cash flow from operations guidance to at least $12.0 billion from at least $12.5 billion.

Net income for the quarter was $2.05 billion, or $1.58 per share, down from $2.33 billion, or $1.77 per share, a year earlier.

Operating income in the quarter decreased 7.8%, primarily due to $193 million of acquisition-related transaction and integration costs recorded in the current year and the absence of a pre-tax gain of $250 million on the sale of the wholly-owned subsidiary bswift LLC recorded in the prior year. These decreases were partially offset by the increases in adjusted operating income described below.

Operating income increased 72.8% for the year ended December 31 compared to the prior year primarily due to the absence of $5.8 billion of opioid litigation charges and a $2.5 billion loss on assets held for sale related to the write-down of the Omnicare long-term care business, both of which were recorded in the prior year. These increases were partially offset by $507 million of restructuring charges and $487 million of acquisition-related transaction and integration costs recorded in the current year, the absence of pre-tax gains of $250 million on the sale of bswift and $225 million on the sale of PayFlex Holdings, Inc.  recorded in the prior year, as well as the decreases in adjusted operating income described below.

Adjusted operating income increased 3.6% in the three months ended December 31, 2023 compared to the prior year primarily driven by increases in the Pharmacy & Consumer Wellness, Health Services and Corporate/Other segments, partially offset by a decline in the Health Care Benefits segment. Adjusted operating income decreased 2.8% in the year ended December 31, 2023 compared to the prior year primarily driven by decreases in the Health Care Benefits and Pharmacy & Consumer Wellness segments, partially offset by increases in the Health Services and Corporate/Other segments. See pages 3 through 5 for additional discussion of adjusted operating income performance of the Company’s segments.

Interest expense increased $138 million, or 25.0%, and $371 million, or 16.2%, respectively, due to higher debt in the three months and year ended December 31, 2023 to fund the acquisitions of Signify Health, Inc. (“Signify Health”) and Oak Street Health, Inc.

The effective income tax rate in the fourth quarter decreased to 24.3% compared to 26.0% in the prior year primarily due to the impact of certain discrete tax items in the fourth quarter of 2023. The effective income tax rate for the full year decreased to 25.1% compared to 25.9% in the prior year primarily due to the absence of certain nondeductible legal charges and basis differences on the sale of bswift and PayFlex in 2022. These decreases were partially offset by the absence of the impact of certain discrete tax items concluded in the year ended December 31, 2022.

Health Care Benefits segment revenues increased 16.1% and 15.6% for the three months and year ended December 31, 2023, respectively, compared to the prior year driven by growth across all product lines.

The segment’s adjusted operating income decreased 26.0% for the three months ended December 31, 2023 compared to the prior year primarily driven by growth in the individual exchange business, including the related impact of seasonality, and increased utilization in Medicare Advantage. These decreases were partially offset by higher net investment income in the three months ended December 31, 2023 compared to the prior year.

Adjusted operating income decreased 12.0% for the year ended December 31, 2023 compared to the prior year primarily driven by increased utilization in Medicare Advantage when compared with pandemic influenced utilization levels in the prior year, as well as incremental investments in the business, including investments in service capabilities and member experience. These decreases were partially offset by higher net investment income in the year ended December 31, 2023 compared to the prior year.

The MBR increased from 85.8% to 88.5% in the three months ended December 31, 2023 compared to the prior year and increased from 83.8% to 86.2% in the year ended December 31, 2023 compared to the prior year. These increases were primarily driven by increased utilization in Medicare Advantage, including outpatient and supplemental benefits, when compared with pandemic influenced utilization levels in the prior year, as well as Commercial and Medicaid trends returning to normalized levels, consistent with pricing expectations.

Medical membership as of December 31, 2023 of 25.7 million remained relatively consistent compared with September 30, 2023, as declines in the Medicaid product line were largely offset by increases in the Commercial and Medicare product lines.

Medical membership as of December 31, 2023 of 25.7 million increased 1.3 million members compared with December 31, 2022, reflecting increases in the Commercial and Medicare product lines, including an increase of 1.3 million members related to the individual exchange business within the Commercial product line. These increases were partially offset by a decline in the Medicaid product line, primarily attributable to the resumption of Medicaid redeterminations following the expiration of the public health emergency in May 2023.

The segment experienced favorable development of prior-periods’ health care cost estimates in its Government Services and Commercial businesses during the three months ended December 31, 2023, primarily attributable to 2023 performance.

Prior years’ health care costs payable estimates developed favorably by $675 million during the year ended December 31, 2023. This development is reported on a basis consistent with the prior years’ development reported in the health care costs payable table in the Company’s annual audited financial statements and does not directly correspond to an increase in 2023 operating results.

Health Services segment revenues increased 12.3% and 10.2% for the three months and year ended December 31, 2023, respectively, compared to the prior year primarily driven by pharmacy drug mix, growth in specialty pharmacy, brand inflation and the acquisitions of Oak Street Health and Signify Health. These increases were partially offset by continued pharmacy client price improvements.

Adjusted operating income increased 4.2% and 7.8% for the three months and year ended December 31, 2023, respectively, compared to the prior year primarily driven by improved purchasing economics, including increased contributions from the products and services of the Company’s group purchasing organization, as well as growth in specialty pharmacy, including increased contributions from specialty generics. These increases were partially offset by continued pharmacy client price improvements.

Pharmacy claims processed increased slightly on a 30-day equivalent basis for the three months and year ended December 31, 2023 compared to the prior year primarily driven by net new business and increased utilization. These increases were largely offset by the impact of a Medicaid customer contract change that occurred during the second quarter of 2023 and a decrease in COVID-19 vaccinations.

Pharmacy and Consumer Wellness segment revenues increased 8.6% and 7.5% for the three months and year ended December 31, 2023, respectively, compared to the prior year primarily driven by pharmacy drug mix, increased prescription volume, brand inflation and increased contributions from vaccinations. These increases were partially offset by the impact of recent generic introductions, continued pharmacy reimbursement pressure, a decrease in store count and decreased contributions from COVID-19 over-the-counter (“OTC”) test kits and diagnostic testing.

Adjusted operating income increased 9.7% for the three months ended December 31, 2023 compared to the prior year primarily driven by improved drug purchasing, increased contributions from vaccinations, increased prescription volume and lower operating expenses. These increases were partially offset by continued pharmacy reimbursement pressure.

Adjusted operating income decreased 8.7% for the year ended December 31, 2023 compared to the prior year primarily driven by continued pharmacy reimbursement pressure and decreased COVID-19 vaccinations and diagnostic testing. These decreases were partially offset by the increased prescription volume described above, improved generic drug purchasing and lower operating expenses in the year ended December 31, 2023.

Prescriptions filled increased 1.9% and 1.5% on a 30-day equivalent basis for the three months and year ended December 31, 2023, respectively, compared to the prior year primarily driven by increased utilization, partially offset by a decrease in COVID-19 vaccinations and the decrease in store count.

 


ECRM_06-01-22


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