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  • Writer's pictureStaff @ LT&C

Survey Shows Overwhelming Majority of American Senior Citizens Believe Medicare Should Cover Weight Loss Drugs

According to a recent survey done by the University of Michigan, elderly Americans have made it clear that they believe health insurers and Medicare should foot the bill for weight-loss meds like Ozempic, Wegovy, or Zepbound. The majority of seniors (83%) feel that insurance companies should cover the cost of drugs aiding overweight individuals in managing their weight, while about three-quarters (76%) think Medicare should also chip in for weight-loss medications.

Dr. Lauren Oshman, an expert in obesity medicine and associate professor at the University of Michigan, shared that their data highlights a strong awareness and interest in these medications. People want access to them through insurance, and they're also keen on coverage for other weight-focused care like nutrition counseling, exercise programs, and bariatric surgery.

The survey zooms in on the increasingly popular weight-loss drugs, especially since Wegovy, initially approved for type 2 diabetes under the name Ozempic, has gained approval. Zepbound, formerly known as Mounjaro for diabetes, has also received FDA approval for weight loss. These drugs, however, come with a hefty price tag, costing over $12,000 per year for those who have to shell out their own cash.

Despite the cost, these medications have proven to be nearly as effective as bariatric surgery, helping people shed more than 10% of their body weight, as clinical trial data indicates. This exceeds what most obese individuals achieve or maintain through diet and exercise alone.

Medicare currently faces restrictions from a 2003 law that prevents it from covering medications specifically for weight loss. However, it can cover drugs assisting those with type 2 diabetes in managing their weight.

The survey reveals a widespread interest among older adults in using weight-loss drugs to shed some extra pounds. A quarter of respondents admit to being overweight, with 63% of them expressing interest in trying a weight-loss medication. Additionally, 45% of those with diabetes, regardless of their weight, are intrigued by the idea.

The survey suggests a positive impression of these drugs, with 83% of those who've taken weight-loss medication expressing a willingness to do so again.

Dr. Jeffrey Kullgren, the poll director and a primary care physician at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, emphasizes the importance of discussions between patients and healthcare providers. As awareness and usage of these medications grow, he urges those dealing with obesity, diabetes, or other health issues to consult with their healthcare providers about available options.

The survey, conducted among 2,657 adults aged 50 to 80 in July and August, indicates that the drugs Ozempic/Wegovy have played a significant role in sparking interest in weight-loss medications. Although 61% of older adults were aware of the diabetes drug Ozempic, only 18% were familiar with Wegovy specifically approved for weight loss. Other weight-loss drugs like phentermine, Saxenda, Contrave, and Qsymia were less known among respondents, with Zepbound receiving FDA approval for weight management after the survey period.

The researchers underline that this conversation is essential, given the increasing recognition over the past decade that obesity is a chronic condition with multiple contributing factors, necessitating a combination of lifestyle changes and medical or surgical interventions. 

With overwhelming support from the country’s senior citizens, it is clear that the stigma around obesity is fading as Americans desire affordable treatment options to help curb the health issue.


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