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GLP-1 coverage in employer plans could double in 2024

Findings from a recent employer survey on sentiment and adoption of GLP-1 medications by Accolade and Savanta on sentiment and adoption of GLP-1 medications, have reported that while 81% of human resource (HR) decision-makers feel that their employees would be interested, only 25% cover GLP-1s today.

GLP-1 medications, originally designed for diabetes management, have skyrocketed in popularity over the past year as an effective drug for weight loss and obesity. Three-fourths of HR decision-makers are aware of GLP-1 medications and acknowledge them as beneficial for controlling blood sugar, boosting weight loss, improving blood pressure and lowering the risk of heart disease among others.

"These findings mirror the conversations we're having with customers," said Dr James Wantuck, Accolade associate chief medical officer. "This survey provides a helpful pulse on the HR community's need for a game plan around GLP-1 medications. For the forty-three percent planning to offer coverage next year, we recommend a physician-led approach that guides who should be prescribed GLP-1 medications and how to make them part of a holistic health management plan."

The main obstacles to incorporating GLP-1 medications are lack of trusted information and the perceived high cost associated with them. Forty-eight percent said lack of information about other uses of the drug has held them back from covering GLP-1s. They identified doctors and medical organizations or publications (37% and 23% respectively) as information sources they would trust the most.

Thirty-eight percent cited the costs associated with GLP-1s as a potential barrier to providing coverage. Another recent survey by Accolade trusted partner Virta confirmed that high-costs of GLP-1s, driven by an anticipated rise in utilisation, are a concern for a majority (72%) of health plan leaders.

Most HR decision-makers are open to adding GLP-1 medications to their benefits package - 81% feel their employees are interested. They also believe GLP-1 coverage would enhance employees' health and perception of healthcare benefits:

  • 79% agree that GLP-1 coverage will help employees' health long term

  • 77% agree that GLP-1 coverage would make employees feel they get a better health insurance package

Companies already covering GLP-1s (25%) say they plan to continue covering them (99%), providing perspective on balancing financial impact with employee engagement and satisfaction. About one-third reported a strong financial impact from adding GLP-1s, but over two-thirds reported an increase in enrolment after the medications were added. The employers also attributed other related and desirable outcomes to adding GLP-1s:

  • Higher employee satisfaction/wellbeing (75%)

  • Increased engagement in other wellbeing programs (58%)

  • Improvement in other/comorbid health conditions (57%)

Overall, the survey results indicate that cost is not the only reason employers are not providing coverage of GLP-1 medications. HR decision-makers are closely following the surge in demand for the medications, intently considering their plans, and seeking more information from trusted sources to help them reach a decision.

Accolade recommends approaching this decision with ample research from physicians and medical organizations coupled with an advocacy-led comprehensive care perspective that considers the total cost and beneficial outcomes of well-managed employee health.

These results are based on a Savanta survey of 500 HR decision-makers from US-based medium and large businesses across a variety of industries in August and September 2023.


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