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Survey: Many Support Medicare Coverage of Weight Loss Drugs

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Although most older adults support Medicare coverage of medications for weight loss drugs, only one in three favor paying more in premiums for this coverage, finds University of Michigan survey.

In the United States, more than 40% of people are affected by obesity and unless the obesity stems from a preexisting condition, Medicare is prohibited from covering drugs strictly for weight loss due to a Medicare Part D law passed in 2003.

However, 76% of adults in the United States are in favor of Medicare coverage for weight management, according to the National Poll for Healthy Aging, published by the University of Michigan.

Researchers asked roughly 2,700 adults ages 50 to 80 about their weight, how they managed it and their views on Medicare coverage of weight loss drugs such as Wegovy and Zepbound, which have experienced a 300% increase in demand, CNBC reports.

Almost three-quarters of respondents reported that they had been overweight at some point in their lives. In addition, 92% had tried at least one method to lose weight, with exercise being the most common choice at 89%. Of the people who had never taken a drug strictly for weight loss, 59% said they would be interested in taking one in the future.

“Expanding access to a range of weight management treatments can lead to improvements in health and potentially lower costs,” the authors write. “Many weight loss medications are very expensive, resulting in high potential out-of-pocket costs.”

For example, without coverage, a 30-day supply of Ozempic currently costs around $950, according to GoodRx.

Additional weight loss strategies participants were in favor of covering were dietician sessions (83%), weight loss surgery (73), and gym memberships (65%).

The results of the University of Michigan study were published December 2023. The research was conducted in July and August.

This story was first published on Managed Healthcare Executive.

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