Using data from 2017, the authors have previously examined the coverage of obesity-related services in state employee health plans since 2009 and found improvements in coverage for obesity-related treatments. This study repeated the collection of similar data for 2021 and explored whether coverage had continued to increase or decline.
Data on obesity benefits for state employees were obtained from publicly available documents from relevant state websites. Source documents were reviewed for language that would indicate the availability of coverage for nutritional counseling, pharmacotherapy, and bariatric surgery. Use data were collected when available, but availability was limited.
Coverage for some treatments of obesity continued to trend upward, as was the case between 2009 and 2017, but coverage for pharmacotherapy declined from 2017 to 2021. Use data were received from only eight states; analysis of these data indicated underuse of obesity benefits by plan enrollees compared with each state's rate of obesity.
Despite promising new therapies, states in 2021 were less likely to provide coverage for antiobesity medications. Additionally, limited use data suggested that few eligible individuals may be receiving these services. In conclusion, state employee health plans are currently inadequate given the prevalence, severity, and costs of obesity.