In a recent study, researchers found that most older people, about 83%, believe that health insurance should cover medicines that help with weight loss for those struggling with obesity. This survey included individuals aged between 50 and 80 years.
Many of these adults, around 76%, also think that Medicare, a government health program, should pay for these weight loss drugs.
However, a law made in 2003 stops Medicare from covering such medicines, although it does cover drugs for Type 2 diabetes that also help in weight management.
In some parts of the United States, Medicaid, another government health program for people with low incomes, does pay for obesity medicines in 15 states. Some private insurance plans and the Veterans Health Administration also cover these drugs, but not always, because they can be expensive.
The survey wanted to know if older adults were interested in taking prescription drugs to help them lose weight. They found that among those who consider themselves overweight, 63% were open to using these medications.
This interest was also seen in 45% of people with diabetes, regardless of their weight. For those who had already used weight-loss drugs in the past, a high number, 83%, would use them again.
Dr. Lauren Oshman, an expert in obesity medicine, commented on the survey. She noted the strong interest and need for insurance to cover weight loss medicines, along with other treatments like nutrition counseling, exercise programs, and surgery for weight loss.
She hopes this information will help policymakers and those who design health plans make decisions about covering these drugs.
This survey was conducted by the University of Michigan and supported by AARP and Michigan Medicine. It asked adults aged 50 to 80 about their knowledge and opinions on medications for weight management.
The study comes at a time when new types of weight loss injections, like Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro, and Zepbound, are gaining a lot of attention. The survey revealed that 61% of older adults knew about Ozempic, a diabetes drug sometimes used unofficially for weight loss.
Less knew about Wegovy, a similar drug approved for obesity, and even fewer knew about other older drugs like phentermine, Qsymia, Saxenda, or Contrave. Zepbound, another new drug, was approved for weight loss after the survey.
Most of these older adults learned about these drugs from the news, not from health care providers.
Dr. Jeffrey Kullgren, the director of the poll, emphasizes the importance of discussions between patients and doctors about these drugs, especially for those with obesity or diabetes.
He notes that obesity is now seen as a long-term health issue that often requires a mix of lifestyle changes and medical treatments.
These newer medications can be very expensive, costing over $12,000 a year, and usually need to be taken for a long time to keep the weight off. However, they have been shown to be nearly as effective as weight-loss surgery.
There’s also evidence that they significantly reduce the risk of heart problems in people with obesity and heart issues. The demand for these medications is so high that there are now shortages.
Dr. Oshman mentioned that almost all the older adults in the survey had tried to lose weight before, mainly through exercise and diet changes.
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