Bourdon Pressure Gauge

Public Pressure Building for Access to Obesity Medicines

New research from the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation offers a pretty clear picture. The research team sums it up succinctly. “Medicare doesn’t cover obesity drugs, but 76% of older adults think it should.” Yes, public pressure is building for access to obesity medicines.

Survey Research of Adults 50 to 80

This is careful survey research that the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago fielded for the research team at Michigan. They polled a random, representative nationwide sample of 2,657 adults between the ages of 50 and 80. The research utilized a mixture of online and phone interviews in late July this year.

Strong Awareness and Interest

Obesity medicine physician Lauren Oshman was part of the team that conducted this research. She tells us:

“Our data show the strong awareness and interest in these medications, and in access to them through insurance, alongside coverage for other weight-focused care including nutrition counseling, exercise programs and bariatric surgery.

“We hope these findings will help inform policymakers and benefit plan designers who are grappling with the tradeoffs of cost and long-term benefit when it comes to these medications.”

We note that 83% of respondents said health insurance should cover these medicines, while 76% said that Medicare should as well. And nearly a third of them are willing to pay a higher Medicare premium for that coverage.

University of Michigan Poll, Obesity Medicine Coverage

Important Conversations

Jeffrey Kullgren, a primary care physician and associate professor of internal medicine, led the development and analysis of this poll. He says we have important conversations ahead:

“As these medications grow in awareness and use, and insurers make decisions about coverage, it’s crucial for patients who have obesity or diabetes, or who are overweight with other health problems, to talk with their health care providers about their options.

“This is an important conversation in the face of a growing realization over the past decade that obesity is a chronic condition with multiple contributing factors that raises downstream risks of health problems, and that a combination of lifestyle change and medical or surgical intervention is often needed to address it.”

Transformative Options to Meet a Need

So why are we seeing this shift in public sentiment bringing pressure for coverage of obesity medicines? Unlike many aspects of the obesity challenge, the answer to this is rather simple.

For the first time ever, transformative options are coming available to meet a need for effective obesity care. Obesity causes real harm to health and life. So people want access to these options.

Click here to access the full report on this research and here for further reporting about it.

Bourdon Pressure Gauge, photograph by Wilfredor, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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December 14, 2023