What We’re Reading: Medicare Obesity Drug Coverage Savings; Drop in US Overdose Deaths; Maternal Mental Health Plan


Covering antiobesity medications like semaglutide could save Medicare around $500 million annually; preliminary CDC data showed a 3% decline in the number of US overdose deaths last year; the Biden administration recently announced the first national maternal mental health strategy.

Coverage Change Could Save Medicare $500 Million

A recent Intensity report found that covering antiobesity medications like semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy) could save Medicare around $500 million annually, according to Newsweek. The report determined that antiobesity medications would only range from 0.8% to 1.3% of Medicare Part D spending between 2024 and 2030. This would amount to between $1.6 billion and $2.1 billion in Medicare spending per year. However, as seen in the report, it is significantly less than the 9% Medicare Part D spent on covering cardiovascular treatments in 2021. Covering these medications would result in Medicare saving money on obesity-related treatments, like for cancer and heart disease; since obesity has become more prevalent nationwide, covering the drugs under both private and public government insurance could help to reduce costs over time. This is important since the Treasury Department’s recent Social Security and Medicare Trustees Report projected Medicare to run out of funding within the next decade.

Preliminary Data Show First Drop in US Overdose Deaths in 6 Years

The CDC released preliminary data on Wednesday that showed a 3% decline in the number of US overdose deaths last year, according to Reuters. Compared with 2022, nationwide overdose deaths fell 3% to 107,543 in 2023. Some states, like Nebraska, Indiana, Maine, and Kansas, saw declines of 15% or more in such deaths, mostly from opioids. However, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon reported increases of at least 27% compared with last year’s data. The data showed that opioid-related deaths decreased from an estimated 84,181 in 2022 to 81,083 in 2023; deaths related to synthetic opioids, namely fentanyl, also decreased in 2023. Conversely, cocaine-related deaths rose to 29,918 in 2023 from 28,441 in 2022. Similarly, deaths from psychostimulants, like methamphetamine, increased last year to 36,251 from 35,550 in 2022. The CDC noted that this is the first annual decrease in overdose deaths since 2018.

Biden Administration Releases Maternal Mental Health Plan

The Biden administration announced the first national maternal mental health strategy on Tuesday, which seeks specific actions from Congress and federal agencies to reduce the effects of untreated mental health and substance use conditions during and after pregnancy, according to Roll Call. The strategy has 5 different areas: data and research; prevention, screening, and diagnosis; intervention and treatment; community practices; and community engagement. Each area seeks to strengthen the country’s perinatal mental health infrastructure, reduce disparities, and promote educational and community partnerships. For example, the plan recommends that Congress pass a law to establish universal childcare and a national benefit of 6 months of paid family and medical leave. This plan resulted from the work of the Task Force on Maternal Mental Health and comes as mental health and substance use conditions account for the largest amount of US pregnancy-related deaths.

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