Several highly effective medications to combat obesity are now available to patients — or they could be, if employer health plans would cover the cost.
Just 40% of employers currently include GLP-1 drugs for obesity in their health care offerings, though use for patients with diabetes is widely covered.
Yet up to 60% of employers are at least considering covering GLP-1 medications for obesity.
The initial expense of these breakthrough medications can be large. Benefits consultants advise that adopting GLP-1 drugs for obesity could cost up to $1,000 per patient, per month. But for employers, the long-term benefits could be significant.
GLP-1 medications have a demonstrated ability to help patients lose weight, but they can also reduce a host of related health concerns. Even modest weight loss, such as losing just 5% of body weight, can reduce blood pressure, inflammation and joint damage. It can also lessen the likelihood of cancer and Type 2 diabetes, ease sleep apnea and insomnia, and improve mood. Over time, these improvements reduce medical spending.
Better employee health can lead to fewer sick days and higher productivity. Covering GLP-1 drugs can also offer a competitive advantage in a tight labor market, as employers who include obesity treatment experience higher employee satisfaction with their health plans.
Investing in Employees and the Workplace
Fully 99% of employers who covered GLP-1 drugs last year plan to continue doing so. Perhaps that’s because a workforce that’s sleeping better, feeling better and spending less time ill or in the hospital, is a more productive workforce for any employer – and for the nation.
Better employee health and well-being, as well as productivity, retention and satisfaction, will yield significant dividends. Covering obesity drugs could be a smart financial decision and a bold step toward healthier, more vibrant workplaces.