Employers' waning hesitancy over weight loss drugs

While a majority of corporate health insurance plans cover glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist drugs for diabetes, less than a third said they cover the class of drugs for weight loss. However, experts say it's only a matter of time before more employers move to cover obesity treatments, CNBC reported Feb. 16.

The report cited an October survey of 205 companies in which 76% of respondents said they offered GLP-1 coverage for diabetes, while just 27% said they provided coverage for weight loss. Meanwhile, 13% indicated they were considering extending coverage to include GLP-1s approved for obesity, including Wegovy and Zepbound. 

Despite hesitancy stemming from the drugs' high price tags and questions over long-term benefits costs, many experts still anticipate more employers will move to cover GLP-1s for weight loss given unwavering interest among employees. 

"HR benefit leaders recognize this is something employees want because a lot of people do want to lose weight," James Wantuck, MD, associate chief medical officer at Accolade, a personalized healthcare company that found 99% of employers already covering GLP-1 medications said they planned to maintain coverage, pointing to higher employee engagement and improvement in health conditions. 

With monthly costs ranging from $1,000 to $1,500 for Novo Nordisk's Wegovy and Eli Lilly's Zepbound, employers could see an annual cost of $18,000 for a single employee's supply of the weight-loss drugs. 

"The balancing act is maintaining a robust benefits package so they can recruit and retain employees, but also managing the cost of that package to keep costs down for employees and the employer," Greg Stancil, senior account executive at Scott Benefit Services, told CNBC. "Every employer would love to cover everything to make everybody happy, but somebody's got to pay for it."

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