Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Weight loss drugs: How they work, why people take them, and their cost

The injectable drug Ozempic is shown Saturday, July 1, 2023, in Houston, Texas.
David J. Phillip
Both the House and Senate are considering bills that would require Medicaid and private insurers to cover drugs such as Ozempic.

Injectable medications called GLP-1 drugs, more commonly known by names such as Ozempic and Wegovy, were approved by the FDA in the last several years for treating diabetes and obesity. Ozempic in particular has gotten buzz for its use by celebrities as a weight loss tool.

In Vermont, more than a quarter of residents live with obesity. There’s a push at the statehouse to require Medicaid and private insurers to cover GLP-1s because these drugs can be expensive, and usage is growing. Rep. Mari Cordes, of Addison County, introduced a companion bill to Senate Bill 164. House Bill 765 would require health insurance, including Medicaid, to provide comprehensive coverage of treatment for obesity.

Rep. Cordes shared her own experience in front of the Senate committee in support of the bill. Cordes said she decided to share her story because she believes it's an important topic that needs to come out of the shadows caused by the stigma associated with obesity.

"It's critical for us as a culture to address the systemic and personal bias against fatphobic beliefs," Cordes said. "It prevents many fat people from accessing health care because they're told that their viral infection would be better if they just lost weight. We have a lot of work to do, and I think both Senate bill 164 and House bill 765 are a good start in the Vermont policy arena."

The conversation on Vermont Edition also included a discussion of how the drugs work, their health benefits, and their potential shortcomings. Our panel included: Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine, UVM endocrinologist Dr. Matt Gilbert, and OB-GYN Dr. Kimberly Sampson.

Broadcast at noon Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

Have questions, comments, or tips? Send us a message or check us out on Instagram.

Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.