CVS executives knew that some of their sales would go up in smoke when they decided last year to stop selling cigarettes. The press release announcing that all 7,600 CVS stores nationwide would stop selling all tobacco products acknowledged that sales would take a hit. Still, the company said, “This is the right thing to do.”
The costs of the decision are now becoming clear. CVS Health’s general merchandise sales slumped 7.8 percent last quarter on a same-store basis, the company said Tuesday. The company claims non-pharmacy sales would have stayed the same if tobacco sales — and the other products cigarette buyers added to their baskets — were removed from sales figures for the same quarter in 2014.
Same-store sales in the pharmacy category climbed 4.1 percent, boosting overall same-store sales growth to 0.5 percent compared with the second quarter of last year, down from a 1.2 percent year-over-year increase the previous quarter. Net revenue overall grew by 7.4 percent to $37.2 billion, helped by pharmacy services revenue that surged 11.9 percent ($2.6 billion) to $24.4 billion. The company has reportedly increased its market share in the health and beauty categories (it did, however, narrow its full-year earnings forecast).
So even as the move to drop cigarettes has cost the company, its bet on health as the source of future growth may be starting to pay off. CVS stock dropped in the wake of its earnings announcement, but shares are still up more than 15 percent on the year and 44 percent over the past 12 months.
The GOP tax cuts expanded an exemption for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and changed tax breaks that often triggered the tax. As a result, The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Saunders reports, “This year’s AMT is a shadow of its former self. It is expected to raise about $5 billion for 2018, down from an estimated $39 billion under prior law, according to the Tax Policy Center.” The AMT will likely hit some 200,000 tax filers for 2018, down from roughly 5 million who would have had to pay if the tax cuts hadn’t been passed. And the number of people making $500,000 or less who owe the AMT will fall to about 120,000 this year from 4 million last year, a Tax Policy Center economist tells the Journal.
The Trump administration is proposing a rule that would withhold federal Title X family-planning funding from any facility or program that provides abortions or refers patients to abortion clinics. The proposal is based on a Reagan-era rule that required physical and financial separation between taxpayer-funded operations and any abortion services. It would effectively cut off millions of dollars of funding to Planned Parenthood, which receives $50 million to $60 million in Title X funds and which services an estimated 41 percent of the 4 million patients who receive care through Title X, according to The Washington Post.
Politico’s Jennifer Haberkorn reports that, after four election cycles of ducking, dodging and tiptoeing around Obamacare, Democrats this time around have “a unified message blaming Republicans for ‘sabotaging’ the health care law, leading to a cascade of sky-high insurance premiums that will come just before the November midterm elections. They’re rolling out ads featuring people helped by the law. And Tuesday, they’re starting a campaign to amplify each state’s premium increases — and tie those to GOP decisions.” Democrats are also focusing on rising health care costs, projected Obamacare premium spikes and prescription drug prices, looking to hang those increases on the GOP.
Economists at the Urban Institute this week released a new health-care policy proposal. The plan would leave Medicare and employer-based health care coverage in place but add a new, Medicare-style “Healthy America” marketplace with public and private insurer options for everyone else. The Urban economists say their plan “is less ambitious than a single-payer system (i.e., Medicare for All), but it would get close to universal coverage with much lower increases in federal spending and less disruption for people currently enrolled in employer coverage or Medicare.”
As for the costs, the authors estimate it would be about $98 billion in the first year.
The Washington Post Editorial Board says the proposal serves as a reminder that “there are options that are neither as cruel as the GOP’s miserly repeal-and-replace nor as disruptive as the more sweeping left-wing proposals” for single-payer plans. “In other words, they are compassionate and realistic.” Read the Urban Institute’s plan here.
“He goes in and campaigns on an issue, and the challenge is he then talks about executing drug dealers. Why do you think the press is going to cover the tax cuts if you’ve given them the much more exciting issue?”
-- Grover Norquist, president of tax-cutting advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform, on President Trump’s failure to sell the tax law.