Merck, Lilly reject public health plan

Industry is lining up against that controversial public health plan proposed as part of wholesale U.S. healthcare reform. Yesterday, top execs of Eli Lilly and Merck both called the public option a mistake. "We're against a government plan," Lilly CEO John Lechleiter (photo) said at the Goldman Sachs Annual Healthcare Conference in New York, Reuters reports; Lechleiter called the concept of such a plan bad policy.

Merck's global pharma chief, Adam Schechter, also told an audience at the conference that his company disapproves of the public plan. Some Congressional leaders have backed the idea of a public health plan that could compete with private insurers for members. The insurance industry is against the idea--of course--and pharma is standing firm on their side as well.

Why the opposition? Lechleiter told his listeners that a public plan would end up limiting coverage and slowing access to healthcare. Those may be his public talking points. But we'd be surprised if those are the only reasons. A public plan would likely negotiate drug prices downward, and might limit formularies even more aggressively than insurers now do. New drugs might not be adopted immediately and costly treatments could face more scrutiny. And if that plan were competing with private insurers, private insurers probably would want to do the same. 

- read the Reuters coverage

ALSO: Merck again confirmed that the jobs bell will toll for some 16,000 folks as it merges with Schering-Plough. The drugmaker plans to maintain a workforce of about 90,000 people, 15 percent fewer than the two companies employed as stand-alone operations, the French newspaper La Tribune reports. Report