A nutrient-rich diet is essential for maintaining optimal health. Nutritious food contributes to overall wellness; protects against heart disease, diabetes and cancer; and can lower annual medical costs by an estimated average of $1,800 each year.

With a growing body of research supporting the benefits of healthy eating, the US Department of Health and Human Services developed a Food as Medicine program—based on the growing movement with the same name. In addition, the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will require Medicare Advantage Organizations to participate in the Value Based Insurance Design model to offer supplemented benefits in at least two of three health-related social need areas—food, transportation or housing—by 2025.

To help promote healthy eating among seniors, Medicare Advantage and other health plans are offering added benefit solutions that include fresh food delivery and prepared meals. The Medline Newsroom recently spoke with Amy Rogers, BSN, RN, senior clinical resource manager for Medline Nutrition, about the food as medicine movement, and Medline’s new Food Benefit Solution.

Q. Medline Newsroom: What is the thinking behind the food as medicine movement?

A. Amy Rogers, BSN, RN: The food as medicine movement is the result of emerging literature and research supporting the links between the type and amount of food we consume and our overall health, with poor health associated with poor nutrition. Food provides our basic energy needs; it also protects against chronic disease, aids in disease management and supports mental health.

We know that an investment in healthy food and habits is an investment in future health. Diet-related health conditions cost the US $1.2 trillion each year and are the leading cause of mortality1. Food and nutrition programs that provide individuals with medically tailored meals, produce prescriptions and/or medically tailored groceries can make a positive impact on their health and overall cost of care.

Q. How are health insurance plans helping senior members access healthier food options?

A. Many health insurance plans now offer food benefit programs to their members to improve overall health. The benefit programs are customized to meet member needs and may include: medically tailored meals, grocery boxes, grocery allowances and produced prescriptions. Food benefits are sent directly to member homes helping to eliminate barriers associated with not living near grocery stores (food deserts), and/or a lack of transportation. These benefits can also include educational counseling to teach members the impact healthy eating has on their well-being.

Health plan food benefit programs help remove barriers to healthy eating

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