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How To Get Insurance To Cover Ozempic For Weight Loss

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedFebruary 28, 2024

With obesity reaching epidemic proportions, medical treatments for weight management have garnered increasing interest. Ozempic (semaglutide) has shown remarkable potential as an anti-obesity medication, providing significant weight loss for many patients.

For instance, patients using Ozempic in combination with lifestyle interventions lost about 15% of their body weight over 68 weeks, which is a considerable reduction compared to placebo groups​. However, navigating insurance coverage for weight loss drugs like Ozempic can be challenging.

This comprehensive guide delves into the nuances of understanding Ozempic, its approval and uses, insurance coverage considerations, financial assistance programs, alternative treatments, and expert strategies for getting Ozempic approved by insurance for weight loss.

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • Ozempic (semaglutide) has shown remarkable potential as an anti-obesity medication, providing significant weight loss for many patients with lifestyle interventions. However, insurance coverage can be challenging since it is prescribed off-label for weight loss.
  • Ozempic is FDA-approved for managing blood sugar in type 2 diabetes but not specifically for weight loss. Still, research shows it is very effective for obesity when used at a higher dose.
  • Most private insurance and Medicare plans cover Ozempic for diabetes but not for weight loss. Medicaid coverage varies by state. Novo Nordisk offers copay assistance for those with commercial insurance.
  • Financial assistance programs like Patient Assistance Programs and coupons can provide discounts or free medication for those who qualify by income. Other resources are also available to lower costs.
  • Alternative weight loss medications like Wegovy, Saxenda, or other GLP-1 agonists, as well as medications like Contrave or Qsymia, may be covered more readily by insurance.
  • Behavioral change programs that target eating habits, activity levels, and lifestyle are also effective non-medication alternatives for weight loss.
  • Strategically researching your health plan, appealing denials, considering alternatives and consulting specialists can help navigate the process of obtaining coverage.
  • Though challenging, getting insurance coverage for Ozempic for weight loss is possible through a comprehensive understanding of options and persistent self-advocacy.
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Understanding Ozempic and Its FDA Approval

Ozempic, known generically as semaglutide, is an innovative drug that has made significant strides in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and has also garnered attention for its potential role in weight management. This section explores the understanding of Ozempic, its FDA approval, and its use for diabetes and weight loss.

FDA Approval and Use for Diabetes

Ozempic was first approved by the FDA on December 5, 2017, as a medication for improving blood sugar control in adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM), particularly when used with diet and exercise. It is available as a liquid in a prefilled pen and is administered as a weekly subcutaneous injection.

Ozempic may be used alone or with other FDA-approved diabetes medications like metformin, sulfonylureas, thiazolidinedione, and insulin. It's important to note that when used with insulin injections, Ozempic and insulin should be injected separately​​​​.

Ozempic has effectively lowered HbA1c (hemoglobin A1c), a measure of blood sugar control. The FDA's approval was based on evidence from seven clinical trials involving 4087 type 2 DM patients conducted across 536 sites in 33 countries. An additional trial involving 3297 patients at high risk for cardiovascular events was also considered, emphasizing Ozempic's role in reducing major adverse cardiovascular events in adults with type 2 diabetes and established cardiovascular disease​​​​​​​​.

Ozempic and Weight Loss

While Ozempic's primary FDA-approved use is for managing type 2 diabetes, its effectiveness in aiding weight loss has been recognized. Ozempic and other GLP-1 agonists work by mimicking a hormone released from the digestive tract called glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1), which helps lower blood sugar and promotes a feeling of fullness. This mechanism leads to a reduced appetite and subsequent weight loss.

However, it is important to understand that Ozempic isn’t just a tool for suppressing appetite; it alters the body’s response to weight loss. Obesity is considered a complex metabolic disease, and treatments like Ozempic can modify the body's reaction to food intake and weight loss​​.

Research has demonstrated that higher doses of Ozempic (2.4 milligrams of semaglutide) are very effective in reducing weight in obese people. A study revealed that participants using the drug in combination with lifestyle interventions lost about 15% of their body weight over 68 weeks, averaging a loss of approximately 34 pounds. This contrasts with an average weight loss of about six pounds in participants who did not take the medication​​.

Ozempic as an Off-Label Treatment for Obesity

Ozempic is the same medication as Wegovy®, approved by the FDA in 2021 as an anti-obesity medication, but Wegovy comes at a slightly higher dose. Providers often prescribe Ozempic off-label for people living with obesity. Off-label use refers to the prescription of a drug for a purpose other than its stated FDA-approved use. It is a common practice across the medical field and is considered medically appropriate when deemed suitable by healthcare providers​​.

Source: Mims

Insurance Coverage for Ozempic

The insurance coverage for Ozempic in treating type 2 diabetes and weight loss involves understanding the policies of private insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Private Insurance

Most private insurance plans typically cover Ozempic for its FDA-approved use in managing type 2 diabetes. However, coverage for weight loss is less certain since this is considered an off-label use. Ozempic for weight loss is not routinely covered by many insurance companies due to its non-FDA-approved status for this specific use. The cost of Ozempic with insurance for diabetes treatment varies depending on the following:

  • Insurance plan
  • Formulary
  • State of residence
  • Any deductibles or copays​​​​​​

If Ozempic is prescribed off-label for weight loss and your insurance does not cover it, alternative medications such as Wegovy or Saxenda, which are approved for weight loss, might be considered. These alternatives contain the same active ingredient or are in the same drug class as Ozempic.

It's also advisable to check with your insurance plan regarding coverage for weight loss medications. Additionally, Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of Ozempic, offers copay assistance for those with commercial insurance, potentially reducing out-of-pocket costs significantly​​.

Medicare and Medicaid

Medicare typically covers Ozempic under Medicare Part D for treating type 2 diabetes but does not cover it for weight loss. The coverage and costs depend on the plan's specific benefits, deductibles met, and if the coverage gap (donut hole) has been reached. Coverage can change annually, so it’s important to check directly with your Medicare plan for the most current information​​.

A government-run health insurance program, Medicaid usually covers Ozempic for type 2 diabetes treatment. Coverage for weight-loss drugs under Medicaid is less consistent and often determined by individual state policies. Many states may not cover weight-loss drugs for Medicaid recipients, or they may have specific requirements before coverage begins. It's crucial to contact your state's Medicaid program to understand the extent of coverage available for Ozempic, especially when considering it for weight loss​​.

💡 Did You Know?

Semaglutide, a top-rated weight loss medication, helps reduce obesity-related health issues, including a 20% drop in cardiovascular events for heart disease patients. Approved for adults and kids over 12 with obesity. Learn more in our article on top prescription weight loss medication.

Financial Assistance and Support Programs

​​For individuals who find that their insurance does not cover Ozempic for weight loss or those facing high out-of-pocket costs, various financial assistance and support programs are available.

Novo Nordisk Copay Assistance

Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of Ozempic, offers a copay assistance program for individuals with commercial insurance. Eligible patients pay as little as $25 for up to a 3-month supply of Ozempic. This program, however, does not apply to people using government-assisted programs such as Medicare or Medicaid. The Novo Nordisk Savings card can provide maximum savings of up to $450 for a 3-month prescription, valid for up to 24 months after card activation​​​​.

Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs)

Novo Nordisk also offers a Patient Assistance Program (PAP), which provides free medication to those who qualify. Eligibility for this program includes being a US citizen or legal resident, having a total household income at or below 400% of the federal poverty level, and not being enrolled in or qualifying for any government programs like Medicaid or Medicare Extra Help/LIS. The application process can be completed online or via a paper application, and it involves providing information such as:

  • Health care provider details
  • Insurance cards for those with Medicare
  • Tax documents
  • Proof of income​

Additional Resources

Various websites and organizations offer resources for low-income families or those without insurance. These include:

  • RxAssist.org
  • NeedyMeds.org
  • PatientHelpNetwork.org

Online coupons can provide discounts on Ozempic prescriptions. There are also resources available that can help lower out-of-pocket costs. Take advantage of these valuable options to obtain savings on this important medication:

  1. Prescription Drug Vouchers: These vouchers or coupons offer discounts on specific medications and can be obtained online or from pharmacies. They are usually intended for one-time use or may have a limited validity period but can provide immediate savings​​.
  2. Patient Access Network Foundation (PAN): PAN assists individuals with an income between 400-500% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Applicants must have health insurance that covers the medication for which they seek assistance. The program requires FDA-approved diagnosis details and US residency​​.
  3. Simplefill Prescription Assistance: Simplefill evaluates individuals' situations and finds the best assistance programs to make Ozempic more affordable. This service benefits the uninsured, underinsured, or those unable to afford their Ozempic co-pays. Simplefill manages the entire process, from application to ensuring prescription renewals​​.

Alternative Medications and Treatments

If Ozempic is not covered for weight loss by your insurance or you're seeking other options like financial assistance and support programs, there are several alternative medications and treatments you can consider.

Alternative Medications

Numerous other weight loss medications with comparable mechanisms of action exist. Discuss these alternative treatments with your healthcare provider to determine if they may be suitable replacements.

  1. Wegovy and Saxenda: GLP-1 agonist injectable medicines approved specifically for weight loss. Wegovy contains semaglutide, the same active ingredient as Ozempic, but in a higher dose. Saxenda contains liraglutide, another drug in the same class. These medications work similarly to Ozempic by increasing insulin production and reducing appetite, leading to weight loss.
  2. Other GLP-1 Agonists: Apart from Wegovy and Saxenda, other medications in the GLP-1 receptor agonist class include Exenatide (Bydureon) and Dulaglutide (Trulicity).
  3. Additional Weight Loss Medications: There are other drugs with a reliable clinical profile for weight loss, such as Metformin, Setmelanotide, Orlistat, Phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia), and Naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave)​​.

Behavioral Change Programs

This therapy involves changing eating and exercise habits to promote weight loss. It targets poor habits that lead to obesity, such as unhealthy eating and lack of exercise.

The therapy may involve tracking your eating, changing your environment to avoid overeating, increasing activity levels, creating an exercise plan, and setting realistic goals​​​​​​. This therapy may include:

  • Making small changes
  • Self-monitoring through food and fitness journals
  • Taking action to prevent overeating
  • Learning to eat more slowly
  • Setting realistic weight-loss goals
  • Being more active
  • Getting social support
  • Learning to think more positively
  • Reducing stress
  • Identifying and overcoming weight-loss obstacles​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions for adults with a BMI of 30 or higher. Such interventions are designed to help achieve significant weight loss through dietary changes and increased physical activity, with most interventions lasting 1 to 2 years​​.

🩺 Doctor’s Note

Alternatives to Ozempic for weight loss provide various options for those who may not have insurance coverage for Ozempic or are exploring different approaches to weight management. It's important to consult a healthcare provider to determine the best option based on individual health needs and circumstances.

Navigating the Process

Navigating the process to get coverage for Ozempic, particularly for weight loss, involves a series of steps requiring careful consideration and strategic action. Here is guide on how to navigate this process:

1. Research Your Health Plan

Understanding your health plan is a crucial first step. Many health plans do not include coverage for weight loss drugs, although some are starting to. Before seeing your doctor, contact your insurance provider to inquire about which weight loss drugs are included in the formulary for chronic weight loss and the details of your monthly copay.

Knowing which medications your insurance covers can help guide your conversation with your healthcare provider​​​​.

2. Medical Appointment

All weight loss medications, except over-the-counter options like alli (orlistat), require a prescription. Make an appointment to discuss your treatment options with your healthcare provider. Sometimes, certain medical or other reasons may limit your ability to use weight loss medications​​​​.

3. Discuss Alternatives

Discuss other approved alternatives with your doctor if your insurance does not cover Ozempic for weight loss. GLP-1 weight-loss alternatives might suit you, such as Wegovy Saxenda or other options. Your doctor can help you understand these alternatives' benefits and potential side effects​​​​.

4. Obtain Prior Authorization

Prior authorization is often required for insurance coverage of medications prescribed for non-FDA-approved uses, like weight loss in the case of Ozempic.

Contact your insurance company to get this authorization or to confirm whether they will cover the medication. The insurance company, not your doctor, decides what health-related expenses are covered​​​​.

5. Review Insurance Plan and Coverage

Every insurance company and plan is different, and coverage can vary based on individual factors such as age, employer, pre-existing medical conditions, or marital status. It's important to understand the specific coverage offered under your insurance plan.

If you're considering using Ozempic for weight loss, reviewing your plan's coverage for this medication is essential​​.

6. Request an Appeal

If your insurance initially denies coverage for Ozempic, especially for weight loss, you can file an appeal. This involves submitting an official request to reverse their decision, often including statements from your doctor outlining your need for the medication and supporting medical information. Although there's no guarantee the appeal will be honored, it's a worthwhile option​​.

7. Consult With Specialists

Talking with an obesity or diabetes specialist might provide more insight into navigating insurance coverage for obesity drugs and diabetes medications. These specialists may have experience with similar cases and can offer valuable advice and assistance​​​​.

Final Words

Navigating insurance coverage for innovative obesity treatments like Ozempic can be complex, but is possible. Patients can access this promising therapy by understanding plan details, considering alternatives, appealing denials, and leveraging financial assistance programs.

Though the process poses challenges, arming oneself with comprehensive strategies empowers patients to advocate for medical care that could profoundly improve their health. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

FAQs on How To Get Insurance To Cover Ozempic For Weight Loss

If I'm prescribed Ozempic for diabetes, can I use it for weight loss, too?

Yes, even if your doctor prescribes it to treat diabetes, Ozempic can also benefit weight loss efforts as a secondary perk.

Does my weight or BMI impact whether insurance will cover it?

Yes, most insurers want your doctor to show you have a BMI of 30 or higher to consider obesity treatment options like Ozempic.

How long will insurance authorization for Ozempic last?

Approvals typically last 6-12 months if authorized, after which you'll need your doctor to request renewal to keep coverage.

Does Ozempic for weight loss need to be taken forever?

No, typical courses last under 2 years, but it also depends on how much weight you need to lose and if it's the right med for maintaining.

Are mail-order pharmacies cheaper for filling Ozempic?

Sometimes, mail-order specialty pharmacies may offer lower copays or discounts on Ozempic and other expensive drugs.

Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
Virtual weight loss solution
A personalized GLP-1 medication program delivered to you via our partner Korb Health
Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
  • Free consultation; program starts at $269/mo
  • Checkmark Inside Circle.Customized online program and wellness coaching
  • Prescription medications and supplies shipped to your door