Majority support Medicare Coverage for Weight Loss Drugs: Survey

A recent poll on Healthy Aging revealed that a significant majority of US adults aged 50-80 believe that health insurance should cover prescription weight-loss drugs approved by FDA.

Majority support Medicare Coverage for Weight Loss Drugs: Survey

A recent poll conducted by the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging revealed that a significant majority of US adults aged 50-80 believe that health insurance, including Medicare, should cover prescription weight-loss drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The findings shed light on the growing interest in weight management solutions, especially in the context of evolving pharmaceutical options and public awareness.

Among the 2,600 respondents surveyed, a staggering 83% expressed the opinion that health insurance should cover FDA-approved prescription weight-loss drugs, while 76% specifically advocated for Medicare coverage of such medications. The results indicate a widespread desire for access to weight-loss treatments through established health insurance programs.

However, the poll also highlighted a nuanced perspective when it comes to willingness to pay higher Medicare premiums for coverage. Only 30% of respondents indicated a willingness to incur higher premiums for the inclusion of prescription weight-loss drugs in their coverage, revealing a potential hurdle in the practical implementation of such coverage.

Interestingly, the poll delved into the preferences of respondents regarding weight-loss medications. Among those who identified as overweight (27% of respondents), 63% expressed an interest in taking prescription weight-loss drugs. Furthermore, 45% of respondents with diabetes, regardless of their weight, indicated a similar interest in such medications, underlining the broader appeal of these pharmaceutical solutions beyond weight considerations.

The survey coincided with a period of heightened public attention to injectable glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs) like Ozempic, Wegovy, Zepbound, and Mounjaro. These medications have garnered significant interest due to their potential applications in weight management.

The poll revealed that 64% of respondents were aware of at least one prescription medication for weight management. Notable mentions included Ozempic (61%), Wegovy (18%), and the anorexiant drug phentermine (13%). However, awareness of other medications, such as Saxenda, Qsymia, and Contrave, was considerably lower.

The high cost of GLP-1 RAs, which can exceed $12,000 annually for out-of-pocket expenses, poses a significant financial barrier. Medicare, due to a 2003 law, currently does not cover medications for weight loss, although exceptions exist for those with type 2 diabetes. Medicaid covers antiobesity drugs in select states, and private plans and the Veterans Health Administration provide coverage but with restrictions due to the high monthly costs of newer medications.

Respondents expressing interest in prescription weight-loss medications were more likely to be women, aged 50-64, Black or Hispanic, with lower household incomes, lower education levels, and facing physical or mental health challenges. This underscores the importance of addressing diverse demographic considerations in the formulation of healthcare policies related to weight management.

The demand for evidence-based weight-loss medications has prompted the American Medical Association to advocate for insurance coverage. However, the scarcity of these medications due to high demand poses a challenge, emphasizing the need for informed discussions between patients and healthcare providers about available options.

Beyond pharmaceutical solutions, the poll also explored other weight-management strategies that respondents believed should be covered by health insurance. These included sessions with registered dietitians or nutritionists (85%), weight-loss surgery (73%), gym or fitness facility memberships (65%), apps or online programs for tracking diet and exercise (58%), and sessions with personal trainers (53%).

As conversations around healthcare coverage continue, the poll serves as a valuable insight into the preferences and perspectives of the older demographic regarding weight management and insurance coverage. The findings underscore the need for a comprehensive and inclusive approach to addressing the diverse healthcare needs of this population.