Merck CEO Gilmartin urges U.S. Congress to help uninsured

Merck CEO Raymond Gilmartin urged the U.S. government to turn its attention to the millions of uninsured Americans once it enacts a Medicare drug benefit, a news source reports.

In a speech to the National Press Club, Gilmartin said that the conflict between opposing health-policy camps, which includes the pharmaceutical industry, has left millions of Americans without insurance. "On one side, some see health-care coverage as a public good that should be delivered by the government," Gilmartin is quoted as saying. "Others believe a market-based approach, not government intervention, is the right solution." Urging compromise from both political parties as they move toward a Medicare reform bill, he said a Medicare drug benefit could serve as a roadmap for expanding health care coverage to millions of Americans.

Part of the compromise, Gilmartin suggested, could be tax credits to help employers pay for health insurance. Of those Americans who lack insurance, 80 percent are employed or have family members who are employed, yet either they cannot afford the insurance offered through the workplace or their employers don't offer health benefits.

The Medicare proposals now moving through both houses of Congress offer "great promise," Gilmartin said, and Merck supports them. The company views a prescription-drug benefit as good for business in terms of sales and profits. "But we will have to compete to get that opportunity," he is quoted by this news source as saying.

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