Weight loss drugs and the pre-existing condition of being American

Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro continue to rise in popularity despite lagging insurance coverage.

The US health care system, ladies and gentlemen:

medications pricing chart
  • Interest in drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro, used as a weight loss shortcut, soars.
  • The rich and famous hail the drugs’ efficacy, fueling demand and leading to shortages for patients most in need.
  • Prices stay high, causing insurers to balk at covering the drugs.
  • Left to pay out-of-pocket, average Americans start accumulating debt to access the medications.

If you think there aren’t already dozens of sad stories on GoFundMe of people seeking help to pay for these drugs, you must be new here.

Why the economics are so wonky

Today, some Americans are paying $10k+/year to access popular weight loss drugs, per The Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ found multiple patients picking up second jobs, cutting back on groceries, and accruing credit card debt to afford the meds after their insurance denied coverage.

A June report showed only 43% of US plans covering the drugs. Why?

  • Many health plans, including Medicare, currently view the drugs as lifestyle enhancements rather than medical necessities.
  • Employers fear the costs of covering them — one study found companies’ insurance spending could increase by 50%+ if half of their Wegovy-eligible employees decided to take it.

No matter the reasoning, a dearth of insurance coverage leaves patients to pay full, steep retail prices. The cheapest option we could find for a month’s supply of Ozempic was $870.70; Wegovy bottomed out at $1.3k+.

The only answer for now: guilt

Those who can afford out-of-pocket prices will continue to fuel the craze — “The Millionaire Matchmaker” star Patti Stanger told WSJ: “[Ozempic] is the Hollywood drug… Everybody I know is on it.”

When they feel bad about it, perhaps they’ll head to GoFundMe to help those with limited financial means — and oftentimes more pressing need for the medications — eke by.

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