Employer coverage of GLP-1 drugs in health plans could nearly double by 2024

As buzz grows around the use of GLP-1 drugs, such as Ozempic and Wegovy, as a weight loss tool, many HR leaders say they plan to cover the drugs for employees mine.

According to newly released survey results from Accolade, a health care company, 43% of employers plan to pay for weight loss drugs by 2024, nearly double the rate of employers paying for weight loss drugs. pay them today (25%).

The survey of 500 employers found that most HR decision makers are open to adding GLP-1 drugs to their benefits packages, with 81% reporting that their employees would be interested in GLP-1 drug.

The anticipated spike may be a result of high interest among workers, as well as potential benefits for employers in terms of healthier workers. Providing access to medications can also be a recruitment and retention tool, says James Wantuck, MD, associate chief medical officer at Accolade.

“With the recent spike in demand around these drugs, HR decision makers felt it would create a better overall health insurance package for employees, as well as increase enhance their physical and mental health in the long term.” -One-third of companies that added GLP-1 to their healthcare offerings saw increased enrollment.

“For companies that have offered this drug as part of their benefits, they have also seen higher employee satisfaction,” Wantuck said.

The survey found that nearly all (99%) of employers currently covering GLP-1 drugs plan to continue covering them next year.

Accolade’s survey results are significant because they are among the first to evaluate HR leaders’ medication delivery plans.

Earlier this year, experts said SHRM online Employers are starting to consider whether they should cover diet pills for their employees. Experts say that although employees have expressed interest in the drug, it is still too early to know what organizations will do, especially given the high cost of drugs as well as the fact that some drugs have not yet been approved. Officially approved for weight loss. .

For example, Ozempic is only approved to treat Type 2 diabetes, and employers primarily cover the drug for that diagnosis. Wegovy is also a diabetes drug but was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for chronic weight management in 2021. Meanwhile, drugmaker Eli Lilly is sought FDA approval for the use of Mounjaro, another antidiabetic drug given weekly via injection, to treat adults with obesity or those who are overweight and have diabetes-related comorbidities. weight.

Employers acknowledge health benefits

Data shows that employers can be persuaded to pay for medication to help their employees stay healthier.

For example, Accolade’s survey found that three-quarters of HR decision makers said GLP-1 drugs are beneficial for controlling blood sugar, promoting weight loss, improving blood pressure and reducing the risk of have heart disease.

“New studies come out every day showing profound health benefits from losing a significant amount of weight,” says Wantuck. “As scientific evidence grows and new drugs in this class are approved, justifying lack of coverage will become increasingly difficult.”

Helping control workers’ weight not only makes employees healthier and more productive, but it also saves the organization on health care costs. Obesity is a significant contributor to corporate pocketbooks: A quarter of U.S. employers say obesity has the greatest impact on overall health care costs, according to data. 2022 data from the International Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP).

Julie Stich, vice president of content at IFEBP, said in June that employers’ efforts to address weight loss are becoming increasingly accepted.

“If employers want to help with weight management, that can have a positive impact on a number of health conditions,” Stich says. “In the workplace, we should overcome any stigma surrounding weight and seek to provide support, solutions and understanding. We should consider that when talking about our children’s overall health People.”

Cost barrier

Although the survey shows great potential for the drug, cost remains a concern.

38% of HR leaders surveyed by Accolade cited costs associated with GLP-1 as a potential barrier to providing coverage, while another recent Virta survey found high costs of GLP-1, given the anticipated increase in usage, is a concern for the vast majority (72%) of health plan leaders.

That’s for good reason: Drugs like Ozempic cost more than $1,000 per month on average. And a significant number of employees may want to use drugs, which will significantly increase drug costs for employers. Additionally, the drug is not designed for short-term use. Studies show that weight loss will only occur with continued use of the drug, justifying a long-term commitment from employers and a much higher price tag.

But with employee interest growing, Wantuck said more employees will “expect and demand that their employers cover these drugs.”

“For some employers, this will overshadow the high costs associated with this drug – a barrier for many employers considering it,” he said. “We expect that demand for GLP-1 will only increase in the coming years and there are no signs of it slowing down.”

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