Are Weight-Loss Health Benefits a Winning Strategy for Employers?

Explore the costs of obesity and health benefit options

Employers and brokers are facing a conundrum in considering health and pharmacy benefits for obesity treatment: how to care for employees and lower risks for a range of chronic diseases while handling the skyrocketing costs of weight-loss drugs, which may not yield long-term, sustainable results. 

One fact is clear: organizations can no longer ignore the cost of obesity.

A recent study on the costs US employers face from obesity and overweight by the firm Global Data includes these numbers: 

Average Annual Cost per Worker with Obesity

  • $1,514 higher medical costs 
  • $664 higher disability costs 
  • $112 higher injury worker compensation costs
  • $1,755 higher absenteeism costs 
  • $2,427 higher presenteeism costs

Finding a Balanced Health Benefits Solution

Employers and brokers assessing obesity and weight-loss treatment options should consider a return on investment that goes beyond immediate savings. 

For example, weight-loss drugs often produce mixed long-term results. Some patients will lose weight initially, but then gain weight back. Others may struggle with medication adherence due to side effects. 

We advise employers to pair medication coverage with a continuous weight management program that addresses diet, exercise, and nutrition,” says Chelsea Durnil, PharmD, Clinical Innovation Pharmacist, True Rx Health Strategists. Patients need continued support and coaching to sustain weight loss in the long term.”

Data from several studies shows that patients need education about their weight-loss drug before or early in the therapy process. Patients who understand how to take the medication, steps to mitigate side effects, and benefit coverage are more likely to continue their full course of prescribed therapy. If an employer chooses to cover a GLP‑1 for weight loss, early education is especially important since research shows nearly 70% of patients taking a GLP‑1 for weight management stop the drug within a year. 

Organizations should also consider if the workplace environment supports weight-loss efforts. Are healthy foods available in break rooms? Do employees have a place to walk during breaks? This type of support for a healthy lifestyle can enhance benefits. 

Long-Term Impact: Lowering Risks for High-Cost Chronic Diseases

Patients who learn and adopt long-term approaches to healthier nutrition and exercise have a much higher chance of avoiding obesity complications. 

  • Several studies of weight management programs that incorporate lifestyle counseling and behavior modification show participants have an average weight loss of 5 to 8% of initial body weight. 
  • When weight loss can be sustained, patients can lower the risk for an array of chronic diseases. For example, an average weight loss of 6.7% reduces the incidence of diabetes by 58%.
  • Weight loss also lowers the risk for other chronic diseases associated with obesity, including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, sleep apnea, certain types of cancers, and asthma. 

A continuous weight management program that offers personalization can be a powerful resource for plan members. How organizations can most effectively incorporate a program with other obesity treatment benefits typically depends on several factors, such as the type of business or industry or the overall health profile of the plan member group. 

Talk to a Health Strategist About Solutions for Weight Management

To assess obesity treatment and weight management programs for your benefits plan, consult with a True Rx Health Strategist. Contact Michelle Reeling at Michelle.​Reeling@​truerx.​com