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A new survey finds that a growing number of people say coverage of GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy is not only worth changing jobs but is a more important perk than child care assistance or unlimited PTO. Lock Stock/Getty Images
  • As the demand for anti-obesity medications like Ozempic and Wegovy soars, American workers demand coverage.
  • One survey found that employees would rather have coverage for anti-obesity medications than other benefits like child care.
  • As the desire for these medications stays high, experts anticipate that more employers will find ways to cover them.

Nearly half of American adults are interested in taking a safe and effective prescription anti-obesity drug like Ozempic or Wegovy to lose weight.

The desire for access to anti-obesity medication is so strong that people are more interested in coverage for these medications than other work perks, including child care.

Without coverage for these drugs, it can cost a person over $1,000 for a one-month supply.

To get a better understanding of consumer sentiment when it comes to GLP-1 medications, the cardiometabolic care solution, 9amHealth, surveyed over 1,300 Americans.

They discovered that workers are willing to leave their jobs (or stay at one they hate) and cut back on spending across the board to get their hands on these medications.

In fact, 67% of respondents stated they would be “likely” or “very likely” to stay at a job they didn’t like in order to sustain coverage for weight loss medication.

This doesn’t surprise Dr. Angela Fitch, co-founder of Knownwell and president of the Obesity Medicine Association.

“These medications are revolutionary in their efficacy in treating obesity. Patients finally find something helpful that many have been trying to treat with various lifestyle offerings by employers for years and have not found success,” Fitch told Healthline.

The medications help people achieve 20% weight loss or more compared to older medications that typically cause about 5% weight loss, said Dr. Sethu Reddy, past president of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology.

The medications are so effective at blunting obesity-associated health problems that they were named the 2023 Breakthrough of the Year by Science, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Association for the Advancement in Science.

While science and physicians back the medications, seeing people accomplish weight loss on the medications drives them to want to achieve the same, said Reddy.

“Everyone knows what their co-workers, friends, relatives, etc., are doing [because they’re] publicly sharing their experiences,” he told Healthline. “It has been known for decades that obesity is a state that plays a significant role in one’s self-image and worth and in one’s perception of success.”

Other key findings from the survey included:

  • Of respondents employed somewhere that does not offer coverage for semaglutide medications, 20% of respondents are “likely” or “very likely” to change jobs to gain coverage.
    • Many respondents reported spending a significant amount of their monthly income on GLP-1 medications, with 50% of respondents saying they are cutting back on entertainment, groceries, luxury purchases, and more to afford these medications.
  • When it comes to job perks, respondents ranked coverage for weight loss medications as more important than child care assistance/reimbursement, unlimited PTO, work-from-home or hybrid work models, and team bonding activities.
  • 38% of respondents have tried black market weight loss products in the past, but the majority have gone the more traditional route of trying dietary restrictions and exercise/personal training prior to considering GLP-1 medications.

In 2023, about 25% of employers covered anti-obesity medication. According to the healthcare firm Accolade, this could jump to 43% percent in 2024.

However, the cost to employers is so steep that in 2023, some companies like the non-profit healthcare system Ascension and the University of Texas system stopped coverage due to a 233% total cost increase for them.

And just this month, Ozempic and Mounjaro were among 800 medications that experienced a median list price increase of 4.5%, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Despite the cost, Fitch said employees should continue to demand coverage for obesity care. She believes it should be a standard benefit on all insurance plans, just like coverage is offered for other diseases.

“We don’t have to stay in a job we hate to have care for our cancer; why should we need to do this for our obesity?” she said. “Patients with obesity have been stigmatized and have not stood up for access to care given they feel as though the disease is their fault.”

Fitch said anti-obesity medications should be a standard benefit to all patients, including those on Medicare and Medicaid.

“Currently, employers have to choose to add coverage and pay extra for coverage while large insurance companies continue to become more profitable [as] millions of Americans don’t have access to care,” said Fitch.

How employers respond to coverage may depend on how tight the job market is, noted Reddy.

“If the demand for workers is high, employers may be incentivized to update their health insurance policies. If there are lots of people looking for few jobs, then the job applicants will not use this drug access as a factor, and neither will employers upgrade their insurance coverage,” he said.

While he acknowledged that medications like Ozempic and Wegovy are revolutionary for obesity patients, he said that the ultra-fast communication driven by social media can cause trends to form quickly and end quickly.

“I’m sure the pharma companies are paying attention to this vast amount of free marketing. Publicity can rapidly change direction as well,” he said. “To give you an idea, 20 years ago, I had patients insist on a weight loss medication, even if there was a small chance of needing heart surgery. The popularity of bariatric surgery is another indicator.”

With more advances in medical therapy in the works, he notes that current branded anti-obesity medications will be off-patent.

“At that time, prices should fall, and access should get easier,” said Reddy.