Employers Are Paying More for Ozempic

Prescriptions for novel weight-loss drugs increased health costs for employers to more than $300 per insured employee this year, according to new data from benefits consultancy Aon.

Wegovy, Rybelsus, and Saxenda, along with the diabetes drug Ozempic, increasingly used off-label for weight loss, raised healthcare spending to $324 per insured member in 2023, compared to $96 per member in 2021, Forbes reports.

Studies show that these drugs, called GLP-1 agonists, can lead to up to 15% body weight loss when combined with diet and exercise. Without insurance, they cost around $1,000 a month.

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GLP-1 agonists are expected to keep driving employers’ healthcare spending throughout 2050 up to $500 per insured health plan, according to Aon's analysis based on its Aon Rx claims data from nearly 500 employers and their 4.4 million health plan members.

The analysis predicts that employees can also expect higher co-payments, deductibles, and premiums deducted from their paychecks.

A recent survey of over 1,700 employers by Mercer found that the total health benefit cost per employee will rise 5.4% on average in 2024.

Along with labor shortages in the healthcare industry and consolidation of health systems, the increase is driven by a sudden jump in utilization of Ozempic and GLP-1 agonists.

Despite rising costs, most employers said they won't increase employees' share of the cost of coverage next year.

Forty-three percent of employers may cover GLP-1 agonists in their health plans in 2024, nearly doubling from 25% covering them now, according to a recent survey by Accolade, a personalized healthcare company.

While these weight loss drugs are increasing in popularity, new evidence of their possible severe side effects emerges. One study linked the use of GLP-1 agonists to an elevated risk of inflammation of the pancreas, bowel obstruction, and stomach paralysis.

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