More private insurance plans adopting ‘food as medicine’ ideology

Two nonprofits in the Philadelphia area have joined forces to deliver personalized meals to Medicaid beneficiaries.

These food-as-medicine setups aren’t standard for Medicare and Medicaid, but private plans can choose to spend government funding on nutrition services. Health Partners Plans has paid for about 560,000 meals to be delivered to more than 2,100 of its members with chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and kidney failure, according to Kaiser Health News.

In Philadelphia, these meals are prepared and delivered by the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance, which tags them with colored stickers based on 11 specific diets they adhere to—including low-calorie, high-protein or low-salt.

“We think of food as medicine and want folks to have access to their prescribed diet just like they do for a prescribed medication,” MANNA CEO Sue Daugherty told KHN.

The recent shift toward keeping people out of the hospital, versus treating them once they get there, has given rise to more of these nutrition-based interventions.

But one expert told KHN more research is needed to determine which people most need these meals and how long the programs should last.

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