Some Private, Public Health Plans Covering Obesity Drugs
Despite possible adverse side effects of obesity drugs -- such as Abbott Laboratories' Meridia and Roche AG's Xenical -- an increasing number of private and public health plans are covering the medications, the Chicago Tribune reports. The Illinois Department of Public Aid, which administers the state's Medicaid program, recently approved coverage of Meridia and Xenical, so long as the prescribing doctor receives prior approval from the state. In addition, private insurers such as Aetna Inc., Thousand Oaks-based WellPoint Health Networks Inc. and Humana Inc., are covering the medicines on a "case-by-case basis" for patients considered morbidly obese, overweight by 100 pounds or more. Humana also is considering a "more standard [obesity drug] benefit." With 61% of the country's adult population considered overweight or obese, pharmaceutical companies, some physicians and patients are lobbying for more insurance plans and state Medicaid programs to cover the drugs. But some insurance companies say that the risks of the drugs outweigh the benefits of covering them. Dr. Allan Korn, chief medical officer for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, said, "The solution isn't a pill but commitments to change lifestyle and improve nutrition" (Japsen, Chicago Tribune, 5/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.