Navigating Insurance for Prescription Weight Loss Pills

Explore if prescription weight loss pills are covered by insurance. Learn about Medicare, Medicaid, and other plans. Get informed today!


Are prescription weight loss pills covered by insurance? It’s a common question, and the answer depends on your specific health plan.

Many health insurance plans do not routinely cover weight loss medications unless you have other medical conditions tied to obesity, like Type 2 diabetes or heart disease. However, some progress has been made, and advocating for yourself can sometimes lead to coverage.

Obesity and overweight have become significant health concerns in America. More than two out of three adults are overweight, and over a third are obese. This surge has sparked a greater interest in effective treatments, including weight loss medications like Wegovy, Saxenda, and Zepbound. Though these medications have shown promising results in helping people lose weight, their cost can be a hurdle.

Given the high costs and the inconsistent insurance coverage, it’s vital to understand your health plan’s policies and explore all available options. Let’s dive deeper into how you can navigate insurance coverage and what you need to know.

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Understanding Prescription Weight Loss Pills

Weight loss medications have become a popular option for those struggling to shed pounds through diet and exercise alone. Here’s a breakdown of common medications, their FDA approvals, and how they work.

Common Medications and FDA Approvals

Several prescription weight loss pills have received FDA approval for long-term use. These include:

  • Wegovy (semaglutide)
  • Saxenda (liraglutide)
  • Zepbound (tirzepatide)
  • Contrave (bupropion-naltrexone)
  • Qsymia (phentermine-topiramate)
  • Xenical (orlistat)
  • Imcivree (setmelanotide)

Each of these medications works differently, so it’s important to understand how they function and their potential side effects.

GLP-1 Drugs

Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 drugs) are commonly prescribed for type 2 diabetes but have also proven effective for weight loss. Three GLP-1 drugs are FDA-approved for weight management:

  • Wegovy
  • Saxenda
  • Zepbound

They help by reducing appetite and slowing digestion, which can lead to significant weight loss.


Orlistat (brand names Xenical and over-the-counter Alli) is different from GLP-1 drugs. It works by preventing the absorption of fat in the gastrointestinal tract. This can cause side effects like gas and loose stools. A low-fat diet is recommended to minimize these effects.


Bupropion-naltrexone (brand name Contrave) is a combination drug that targets the brain to reduce hunger and cravings. Bupropion is an antidepressant and quit-smoking aid, while naltrexone is used to treat addiction. Common side effects include nausea, headache, and constipation.


Liraglutide (brand name Saxenda) is another GLP-1 drug that is given as a daily shot. It’s also used to manage diabetes. Nausea is a common complaint, and vomiting may limit its use.


Phentermine-topiramate (brand name Qsymia) is a combination of a weight-loss drug (phentermine) and an anticonvulsant (topiramate). Phentermine can be misused because it acts like an amphetamine. Possible side effects include increased heart rate, insomnia, and nervousness. Topiramate increases the risk of birth defects.


Setmelanotide (brand name Imcivree) is approved for people with specific rare genetic conditions. It helps reduce appetite and increase calorie burning. Side effects can include skin irritation, nausea, and in some cases, depression or suicidal thoughts.

Understanding these medications and their potential side effects is crucial in making an informed decision. Up next, we’ll explore the tricky landscape of insurance coverage for these weight loss medications.

Are Prescription Weight Loss Pills Covered by Insurance?

Navigating insurance for prescription weight loss pills can be tricky. Let’s break down how different types of insurance handle these medications.

Medicare and Weight Loss Medication

Medicare does not cover most weight loss medications. This is due to a 2003 law that prohibits Medicare from covering drugs specifically for weight loss. However, Medicare Part D may cover these drugs if they are prescribed for another condition, like diabetes.

The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act is a proposed law that aims to change this. If passed, it would allow Medicare to cover weight loss medications. Currently, there is an exception for cardiovascular disease. If you have obesity and cardiovascular disease, certain medications like Wegovy may be covered to reduce heart risks.

Medicaid and Weight Loss Medication

Medicaid coverage for weight loss medications varies by state. Some states cover these drugs, while others do not. Medicaid programs can be fee-for-service or managed care, and coverage rules differ between them.

Federal rules do not require states to cover weight loss drugs under Medicaid. However, some states choose to include them in their Medicaid plans. Check with your state’s Medicaid office to see if these medications are covered.

Employer-Sponsored Health Plans

Coverage for weight loss medications in employer-sponsored health plans is highly variable.

Self-insured plans (where the employer assumes the financial risk) may have different coverage rules than fully insured plans. Coverage is more likely in large-group markets compared to small-group markets.

Trends show that more employers are starting to cover these drugs. A 2023 survey found that the number of employers covering weight loss medications could nearly double in 2024. However, some employers are pulling back due to the high costs of these medications.

Marketplace Plans and Weight Loss Medication

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), individual and small-group health plans must cover at least one drug in every category and class. However, CMS guidelines do not require coverage for weight loss drugs.

This means that coverage for these medications depends on state rules. Some states mandate coverage, while others do not. In late 2023, the Department of Health and Human Services requested comments on whether to change these guidelines to include weight loss drugs, but no changes have been made yet.

Key Considerations:

  • Medicare: Generally does not cover weight loss drugs unless prescribed for another condition.
  • Medicaid: Coverage varies by state.
  • Employer-sponsored plans: Coverage is inconsistent but increasing.
  • Marketplace plans: Coverage depends on state rules.

Understanding your insurance coverage can help you and your doctor make informed decisions about your treatment options. Next, we’ll discuss how to qualify for prescription weight loss pills.

How to Qualify for Prescription Weight Loss Pills

BMI and Comorbidities

To qualify for prescription weight loss pills, your Body Mass Index (BMI) is a key factor. BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight:

  • BMI > 30: You qualify if your BMI is greater than 30. This is the threshold for obesity.
  • BMI > 27 with comorbidities: If your BMI is over 27 and you have serious medical conditions linked to obesity, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, you may qualify.

Obesity-related conditions, known as comorbidities, significantly impact your eligibility. Conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes are common comorbidities. These health issues can make weight loss medications more necessary and beneficial.

Doctor’s Assessment

Your doctor plays a crucial role in assessing your need for prescription weight loss pills. Here’s what they consider:

  • Medical History: Your doctor will review your medical history, including any previous attempts at weight loss through diet and exercise.
  • Health Challenges: They will evaluate any health challenges you face that make weight loss difficult.
  • Pros and Cons: Your doctor will discuss the pros and cons of weight loss medications, including potential side effects.
  • FDA Guidelines: They follow FDA guidelines to determine if a weight loss medication is appropriate for you.

Age Factors: Prescription weight loss pills are generally not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Your age and overall health will also influence the doctor’s decision.

Side Effects: Mild side effects like nausea, constipation, and diarrhea are common but usually lessen over time. Rarely, serious side effects can occur, so it’s important to discuss these with your doctor.

By meeting the BMI criteria and undergoing a thorough doctor’s assessment, you can determine if prescription weight loss pills are a suitable option for you.

Next, we’ll explore the costs and financial assistance available for weight loss medications.

Costs and Financial Assistance for Weight Loss Medications

Monthly Costs of Weight Loss Medications

Prescription weight loss medications can be quite expensive. For example, a month’s supply of Wegovy (semaglutide) can cost around $1,300. Other medications such as Zepbound (tirzepatide) and Saxenda (liraglutide) are similarly priced. These costs can add up quickly since these medications are typically taken long-term.

Specific medications and their estimated monthly costs:

  • Wegovy (semaglutide): $1,300
  • Zepbound (tirzepatide): Similar to Wegovy
  • Saxenda (liraglutide): Around $1,000
  • Orlistat (Xenical, Alli): Approximately $50-$100 (cheaper but less effective)

Starting a prescription weight loss medication is a significant financial commitment. Patients should be aware of the long-term costs and plan accordingly.

Patient Assistance Programs

Given the high costs, many patients look for financial assistance. Here are some options to consider:

Manufacturer Programs: Many drug manufacturers offer patient assistance programs. These programs can provide medications at a reduced cost or even for free, depending on your income and insurance status. Check the manufacturer’s website or ask your doctor for more information.

GoodRx: This service offers discounted prices on various medications, including weight loss drugs. By using GoodRx coupons, patients can significantly reduce their out-of-pocket costs.

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Medicare Part D Extra Help: For those eligible, Medicare Part D Extra Help can assist with prescription drug costs. However, Medicare doesn’t typically cover weight loss medications, so this might only help with related diabetes medications.

Generic Alternatives: Some older weight loss medications have generic versions that are much cheaper. While these may not be as effective as newer drugs like Wegovy or Zepbound, they can still provide benefits at a lower cost.

Discounted Pricing: Pharmacies like Westmont Pharmacy may offer their own discount programs or work with patients to find affordable solutions. Always ask your pharmacist about any available discounts or assistance programs.

By exploring these options, patients can find ways to manage the financial burden of prescription weight loss medications. Next, we’ll address some frequently asked questions about these medications.

Frequently Asked Questions about Prescription Weight Loss Pills

Are weight-loss medications covered by insurance?

The answer is: it depends. Coverage for prescription weight loss pills varies widely across different insurance plans. Medicare, for example, is legally barred from covering weight loss medications due to a 2003 law. This means that, unless the medication is for another condition like diabetes, Medicare won’t help cover the cost.

Medicaid coverage is more complex. Each state has its own rules, and coverage can differ significantly. Some states may cover weight loss medications, but others might not. It’s essential to check with your state’s Medicaid program to understand what’s covered.

Employer-sponsored plans also vary. Larger employers are more likely to offer coverage for these medications compared to smaller companies. Recent trends show some employers are starting to include weight loss medications in their health plans, but it’s not yet widespread.

Marketplace plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have different rules based on the state you live in. Some states include weight loss medications as part of their Essential Health Benefits, while others do not. Always check your specific plan details.

Will my doctor prescribe me weight loss pills?

Your doctor may prescribe weight loss pills if you meet certain criteria. Generally, you need to have a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30, or over 27 with a related health condition like diabetes or high blood pressure.

The doctor will review your medical history and current health challenges before deciding. They will also discuss the pros and cons of different medications with you. Some common side effects include nausea, constipation, and diarrhea. Serious side effects are rare but possible, so it’s important to have a thorough discussion with your healthcare provider.

How do I qualify for weight loss prescription?

To qualify for a prescription weight loss pill, you typically need to meet specific BMI criteria. For most medications, this means having a BMI over 30, or over 27 if you have obesity-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

Your doctor will assess your overall health, including your medical history and any existing health problems. They will consider the potential benefits and risks of the medication. If you haven’t lost at least 5% of your body weight after taking the medication for 3 to 6 months, your doctor may switch you to a different drug.

Age can also be a factor. These medications are generally prescribed for adults, and they’re not recommended if you’re pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding.

By understanding these criteria, you can better prepare for a conversation with your healthcare provider about whether prescription weight loss pills are a good option for you.


Navigating prescription weight loss pills can be complex, especially when it comes to insurance coverage. It’s crucial to check your insurance policy to understand what is covered. This can save you from unexpected costs and help you choose the best treatment plan.

At Westmont Pharmacy, we understand how important personalized care is. Our team is dedicated to helping you find the right weight loss medication and guiding you through the insurance process. Whether it’s explaining your coverage options or assisting with documentation, we’re here to support your healthcare journey.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for personalized care and expert advice. Visit our Prescription Weight Loss page to learn more about our services and how we can help you achieve your health goals.

Your local healthcare provider is also a valuable resource. They can offer insights tailored to your specific health needs and help you navigate the complexities of insurance coverage for weight loss medications.