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Walgreens: An Investment Not A Trade

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Walgreens (WAG), based outside Chicago, was yesterday's disaster du jour. It missed on earnings, writes Chicago Business, losing 7% of its value overnight. It then spent the day bouncing around that level, so the loss feels permanent.

Those who didn't see the miss coming, like Cantor Fitzgerald immediately downgraded the stock, as though that would help traders who were caught out.

Note that I said traders, not investors. I don't consider this company a trade. I consider it an investment.

Here's the difference. When you swap your second-string point guard for another team's second-string point guard, that's a trade. When you spend a draft pick to make Doc Rivers your coach, and put him in charge of your basketball operations, that's an investment.

Walgreens' Rivers is Greg Wasson, a registered pharmacist who became CEO in 2009. Wasson is engaged in a complete reinvention of the company around ObamaCare.

Wasson knows there is a growing, and chronic, shortage of general practice physicians. He also knows young, high-income consumers are increasingly unwilling to wait all day for service and see health care as a lifestyle.

The result is a redesign of Walgreens' business model, built around its Take Care Clinics, which are staffed by nurses and physicians assistants, then linked to doctors through electronic health records and the Internet. Only a small fraction of the company's stores have the clinics so far.

Wasson's biggest win came in April, when the company gained permission to both diagnose and treat "chronic conditions," like diabetes, through the clinics.

John Goodman, the "father of health savings accounts," feels this is a very big deal. He noted that care can be delivered in these clinics for 30% to 40% less than in a doctor's office, 80% less than in an emergency room.

A 2009 study from the 2009 Almanac of Chronic Disease said 80% of American workers have at least one chronic condition, mostly related to obesity, estimating the economic loss at $1 trillion, mostly due to lost productivity. (Full disclosure. I inherited hypertension and high cholesterol from my father, who died from these conditions in 1999, aged 78.)
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