August 4 Web Event: New Weight Loss Drugs Raise Issues of Coverage, Cost, Access and Equity

New weight loss drugs, such as Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and Wegovy (semaglutide) and Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro (tirzepatide), could be transformative for people who struggle with obesity and obesity-related medical conditions, but there are major questions to consider related to insurance coverage, the cost of the drugs, and who has access.

Importantly, by law, the drugs cannot be covered by Medicare for weight loss and are often covered now by private insurers in limited circumstances. Manufacturers of the drugs are lobbying for broad coverage by Medicare and other payers.

On August 4, three experts joined Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at KFF, for a 45-minute “Health Wonk Shop” discussion about the questions surrounding what a new generation of weight loss drugs means for patients and payers:

  • Who could benefit most from the new weight loss drugs, and what are the barriers to accessing them?
  • What would be the impact of Congress overturning the prohibition on Medicare covering weight loss drugs?
  • How are employers and insurers approaching coverage of the drugs given the potentially substantial costs involved?
  • What are the broader implications of the new drugs for U.S. obesity rates and for national health spending, including on obesity-related health conditions?


  • Larry Levitt, Executive Vice President for Health Policy, KFF


  • Juliette Cubanski, PhD, Deputy Director, Program on Medicare Policy at KFF
  • Shauna Levy, MD, MS, Assistant Professor, Division of MIS/Bariatric Surgery, Tulane University School of Medicine
  • Michael Manolakis, PharmD, PhD, Senior Vice President, Pharmacy, Aon


KFF’s virtual Health Wonk Shop series features in-depth policy discussions with experts that go beyond the news headlines to provide greater insights.

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