Health Plans Should Cover Medically Tailored Meals

Aside from the positive effect on outcomes and cost, it has the added benefit of being the morally right thing to do.

Community Servings is a Boston-based not-for-profit provider of about 2,500 medically tailored meals a day. The organization’s CEO, David B. Waters, makes a powerful argument in Stat that the meals should be included in coverage packages provided by health insurance plans.

The meals that his and other organizations like his across the country provide “help patients overcome four common barriers to achieving health: They improve access to healthy food; make it easier to change dietary behavior; remove the uncertainty of food supplies so individuals can focus on other aspects of disease management; and free up money for medications that would otherwise be spent on food,” Waters writes.

The meals fit in neatly with the current push in both the public and private health care sectors to address the social determinants of health (SDOH), something that Managed Care noted in August 2018. He cites a recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine that shows a 16% reduction in health care costs among patients who received the meals thanks mostly to savings due to fewer admissions to hospitals and nursing homes.

Community Servings began in 1990 to serve people battling HIV/AIDS, but its mission has expanded over the years, Waters notes. “Today it serves people with a broad cross section of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and kidney disease.”