Employers Are Now Covering GLP-1s to Combat Obesity

Obesity is becoming an increasing problem for both workers and employers, with comorbidities and health issues hurting productivity and work-life balance. With 43% of all US jobs being highly sedentary, more and more employers are taking charge of diabetes management and weight loss intervention for staff. And because two in five adults struggle with obesity, medical interventions such as GLP-1 drugs and programs have accordingly surged in popularity.

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) surveyed 31,000 organizations and found that a third of employers now offer GLP-1 drug coverage to individuals who meet the criteria. As companies seek to provide better health benefits for their employees, weight management is one of the biggest targets.

What are GLP-1s?

Glucagon-like peptide 1, commonly known as a GLP-1 agonist or analog, is a class of drugs primarily meant to manage the weight and blood sugar levels of people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. GLP-1s are commonly administered through subcutaneous injection, injected under the top layer of the skin in fatty areas of the body.

Because they lower and inhibit glucose levels, GLP-1s also effectively manage the metabolisms of patients taking them. As such, this class of drugs is beginning to be adopted as medication for chronic obesity. Programs backed by medical doctors use a specific type of GLP-1 for weight loss since not all variations in the market are FDA-approved or impact your weight. Right now, prescribed variants include semaglutide, tirzepatide, and liraglutide. Although lifestyle changes remain the core of long-term weight management, these medications have become crucial parts of the journey.

Arguably, the most popular of the bunch is the semaglutide injection Ozempic, which has made the rounds on social media and in celebrity circles. Other known brands are Mounjaro, Saxenda, and Wegovy. Regardless of which variant you may opt to use, a prescription from a medical professional who has assessed your condition is necessary to get the proper dosage. It will also depend on your overall condition, as determining which GLP-1 will work best can be based on blood pressure, glucose levels, baseline body weight, and any other chronic health concerns.

How employers are supporting the fight against obesity

Of the employers that include GLP-1 drugs in their benefits package, around 85% use utilization management to determine coverage. The majority also primarily cover medication as part of diabetes management, but more employers are considering including pure weight loss as a push against obesity in the workplace. The hope is for healthier workplace standards to lower the risk of severe health complications and increase wellness and productivity. Much of the conversation in budget revolves around the high cost of drugs for GLP-1s requiring stringent eligibility practices.

Most employers are willing to take on coverage to account for the many chronic health issues that come with obesity. The investment also works as a pull for candidates, with 67% of American workers willing to stay at jobs they don’t like to sustain coverage for weight management medication. Additionally, 20% of Americans have said they would be willing to leave their jobs for a new position offering Ozempic and Wegovy coverage. Many workers have even ranked weight loss medication as a priority over unlimited PTO or work-from-home opportunities.

On top of covering medication, many employers are also providing financial assistance and resources for counseling and other lifestyle changes necessary to combat obesity. High-stress environments with very little physical movement often lead to continuous and severe weight gain, making it important for employees to prioritize health amid these factors. With the active support of employee benefits and in-office programs, individuals can communicate their health needs, take wellness breaks, and access tools aiding consistency, learning, and healthier habits.

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