U.S. employers covering weight-loss drugs could nearly double in 2024 – survey

The landscape of healthcare coverage in the United States is set to undergo a significant transformation as more employers consider including obesity medications in their benefit plans. According to a recent survey conducted by Accolade and research firm Savanta, the number of U.S. employers covering GLP-1 drugs, a class of medications used to treat type 2 diabetes and aid weight loss, could nearly double next year.

Out of the 502 employers surveyed, 43% expressed their intention to cover GLP-1 drugs in 2024, compared to the current 25% who provide coverage. This shift highlights a growing recognition of the importance of comprehensive health management plans that address weight-related issues. By incorporating GLP-1 medications, employers aim to offer a holistic approach to employee well-being.

Accolade’s Associate Chief Medical Officer, James Wantuck, recommends a physician-led approach to guide the prescription of GLP-1 medications and their integration into overall health management strategies. This approach ensures that the medications are used effectively and in conjunction with other health initiatives.

Encouragingly, the survey found that almost all companies currently covering GLP-1 drugs plan to continue doing so next year. This commitment demonstrates the positive impact these medications have had on employees’ health and well-being, prompting employers to maintain coverage.

However, the rising popularity of Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy, a GLP-1 drug that aids weight loss, has led to increased healthcare costs for employers covering weight-loss drugs. Sales of Wegovy, along with Novo Nordisk’s diabetes drug Ozempic, have surged in the past year. Additionally, Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro, another GLP-1 diabetes drug expected to receive approval for weight loss in the United States this year, has seen a significant increase in prescriptions.

While the growing popularity of these medications presents a challenge for employers in terms of healthcare costs, it also underscores the urgent need for effective weight management solutions. Companies are recognizing the potential impact of weight-loss drugs on employee health, leading to a proactive approach in covering these medications.

Aon, a leading benefits consultant, predicts that employee uptake of weight-loss drugs will contribute to a 1% increase in employer healthcare costs out of the projected 8.5% increase for next year. This data further emphasizes the importance of addressing weight-related issues and highlights the positive steps employers are taking to support their employees’ health journeys.

As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, the inclusion of obesity medications in employer benefit plans represents a significant shift towards comprehensive health management. By covering GLP-1 drugs, employers are demonstrating their commitment to employee well-being and acknowledging the potential impact of weight management on overall health. This progressive approach paves the way for a healthier and more proactive workforce, ultimately benefiting both employees and employers alike.

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