A Discussion with an Industry Insider Jonathan Anders
Ozempic. A word that hardly anybody knew about just a few years ago, but one that seems to have taken the world by storm recently. From reality TV stars, to in-demand actors, to the inimitable Elon Musk himself — Ozempic is everywhere. And it’s no surprise, because the search for the mythical “miracle weight loss drug” has been around seemingly as long as that of the fountain of youth or perpetual motion. So it’s high time we talk about it.
First, What is Ozempic?
Ozempic, known generically as semaglutide, is a medication designed to deal with type 2 diabetes by helping the pancreas make more insulin, thereby lowering blood sugar. It is administered as a weekly injection.
How Does Ozempic Work for Weight Loss?
Although created for those with type 2 diabetes, it was quickly understood that Ozempic showed a side effect of weight loss amongst its users. It turns out that by creating higher insulin levels, your brain gets the signal that your stomach is full, and it also slows your digestion down by increasing the time it takes for food to leave your body.
Ozempic Pros & Cons
As with any new drug, the pros and cons of Ozempic must be considered, and done so in depth. Some of the benefits of Ozempic include sudden and quick weight loss, a decrease of appetite, and a longer feeling of post-meal satisfaction. On the other hand, some of the disadvantages of Ozempic include nausea, constipation, and stomach pain, and less common but more serious drawbacks like vision issues, gallbladder disease, and kidney damage.
Ozempic, Insurance Coverage & the Workplace
Whether or not the explosive growth of Ozempic and other GLP-1’s (the family of medications that includes Ozempic) will continue is anybody’s guess. But one very important question that has arisen is whether or not insurance plans should actually cover the drug for employees. After all, with the ever-rising numbers of obesity among Americans, and the strong desire for insurers to build a healthier workforce, the connection seems only natural. But we at the Sweat Force wanted to dig a little deeper. After all, as one of the leading corporate fitness programs out there, it’s our job to do everything we can to bring fitness and a healthier lifestyle to the masses.
Which is why we talked about the subject with Jonathan Anders, CEO at Benecurv, a health benefits optimizer and risk management architect. With over 25 years working in the areas of employee benefits and population risk management, Jonathan’s expertise is key to the state of the industry — and Ozempic’s role in it. On the subject, Jonathan had this to say:
“Everyone in our industry knows that healthy lifestyle change is the main driver for weight loss. But of course, instilling this healthy change can be very difficult for many employees, and nearly as difficult for employers trying to encourage them. So when you have newly approved drugs that promise immediate weight reduction, of course it’s going to make waves, and quickly enter the national conversation regarding health insurance.
The discussion is not about taking the drug away from people if it has shown effective outcomes — the issue at hand is the balance between efficacy and economics with regard to the health plan. Meaning can we support the short term use for weight loss, but have a long term off-ramp which is a health-based solution — as opposed to a pharmacological one. That’s where population health comes in.”
What Is the Cost of Ozempic?
According to Anders, “The costs of Ozempic treatment could be anywhere from $850 – $1,500 each month for one employee depending on the dose amount. And when you take into consideration the fact that these drugs are needed for the long haul — statistically as soon as one gets off the drug the weight comes right back on — it seems like the numbers just don’t add up.”
But like many other health issues, plans are looking at obesity and evaluating strategies like Step Therapy, involving less expensive options to mitigate a health risk, before gradually moving onto more expensive answers.
“Which is exactly where the industry is at this moment. Balancing the efficacy of weight loss drugs, against their staggering costs, and also the long-term impact of their solution is what the industry is wrestling with at this moment,” Jonathan says.
A further issue, according to Jonathan, is the economy, and the current state of employment in the United States: “The fact is that many employees these days are not staying with their companies for 20 or 30 years like they did in decades past. This higher turnaround means that businesses have no incentive structure to pay these staggering prices, if their employees are only planning to stay with the organization for a couple years.
There are indirect costs as well; consider your health plan costs going up significantly, forcing you to choose between raising your employees’ contributions or raising the price of your goods or services to create higher top line revenue to support the increase. Hence the dilemma.”
The Bottom Line
In the end, according to Anders, “the only real answer is the long-term one — making positive lifestyle changes that lead to healthier habits. That’s the only way for people to get fit and stay that way, whether or not they can afford to take a particular medication. I heard very early on in my career: that the cheapest claim to a health plan is the one that didn’t happen. Employers need to work very hard with partners to support the diversity in the health of their populations. It’s not a witch hunt — they need a well designed risk management strategy.”
And one of the best ways to do that is with a corporate health and fitness program, one that empowers employees to get on the path to health and fitness, with tools such as wellness workshops, company-wide fitness challenges, and team-building workouts. A program, in actuality, like the Sweat Force, which is now utilized by corporations large and small across the United States.
To learn more about the Sweat Force, or to schedule a demo, click here.