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 new, such treatment based on the perception that an employee may be taking a weight-loss drug could be a more recent area with which human resources must grapple.
Third, workplace culture may be impacted by the recent focus on weight and weight-loss medications, and the level of such impact may depend on several factors. For example, the employer’s geographic location, the industry, the overall focus on health and wellness in the workplace, and the employer’s commitment to inclusivity and belonging may all impact how weight and height will be viewed, including using such weight-loss medications.
In light of these workplace considerations and
the attention that these weight-loss medications have received in recent months, a number of employers have opted to implement clinical lifestyle programs and per- sonalized weight-loss management plans. The goal of these programs is to reduce the number of employees who might benefit from weight-loss medications like Wegovy.
To the extent employers have control over their healthcare coverage (fully insured plans are typically subject to state insurance laws and individual determina- tions made by insurance carriers), the decision of wheth- er to cover these weight-loss medications is a challeng- ing one. While these drugs have potential for long-term improvement in the health of employees and can drive future cost savings for the health plan, the cost of cover- ing them today may not align with budget constraints and sustained increases in healthcare spending over the long term.
For example, the current list price of Wegovy is more than $1,300 per month, and most patients take it indefi- nitely to maintain their weight loss. North Carolina recently announced it would no longer cover Wegovy and other similar weight-loss medications for its employ- ees, estimating that such continued coverage would
cause premiums to double for all employees (not just those who are taking the medications). While it is dif- ficult to determine how many private-employer health plans are covering these weight-loss medications, it does not appear that such coverage matches the rampant surge in popularity these medications have experienced in the past year.
Advice for Employers
At this juncture in history, where celebrities, media, and the American public are hyper-focused on weight, including weight-loss medications, what actions can employers consider?
First, it is essential to continue fostering a positive and inclusive work environment that extends to weight, height, body shape, and appearance. Trainings, policies, town halls and education, and other visible commit- ments to such inclusivity can all support such a culture.
Second, businesses should establish specific train- ing of managers, supervisors, and individuals involved in recruiting and hiring about weight and height discrimi- nation and bias (including studies that have demonstrat- ed the existence of this bias), and how these employees can foster an inclusive work environment, and remove any relevant barriers that may exist.
Lastly, employers may wish to review their current culture, policies, and benefits to determine if the employ- er is supporting the health and well-being of employees and their health journeys, and whether there are poten- tial areas of improvement. BW
Abby Warren and Virginia McGarrity are partners
at Robinson+Cole in Hartford, Conn. Warren is a member of the firm’s Labor, Employment, Benefits, and Immigration Group, while McGarrity is a member of the Employee Benefits and Compensation Group.
“It is essential to continue fostering a positive and inclusive work environment
that extends to weight, height, body shape, and appearance.”
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