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Next-Gen Weight-Loss Drugs Receive Tentative Embrace by Medicaid

Medicare does not currently cover Wegovy or other medications specifically for obesity. But some Medicaid programs, which are administered by individual states, are negotiating discounts for the popular semaglutide treatments.

Ganny Belloni for Bloomberg Law:

Nine states from California to Rhode Island have begun to cover expensive, next-generation weight-loss drugs like Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy on their Medicaid preferred drug lists. Preferred drug status allows patients to receive coverage for weight-loss drugs without the need to undergo step therapy, where patients are required to try less expensive and potentially less efficacious drugs before receiving their original drug of choice.

The move to cover weight-loss medication comes as states find new ways to grapple with the high yearly costs for patient care stemming from obesity-related comorbidities like diabetes ($9,601), heart disease ($18,953), and cancers ($21,503). The Milken Institute, an economic think tank, estimates the ensuing health costs and lost productivity of the obesity epidemic cost the US over $1.7 trillion in 2019.

With 44% of Medicaid beneficiaries qualifying as obese, expanding coverage to all eligible beneficiaries will present a significant financial challenge for state Medicaid programs. Wegovy, the most recent weight-loss drug to be added to Medicaid formularies, retails at over $1,300 per month and must be taken indefinitely to maintain results.