Food Is Medicine Coalition Calls for Systemic Change to Integrate Medically Tailored Meals into Clinical Structure of Healthcare

In Letter to New HHS Secretary Becerra, National Group Shares Policy Recommendations

April 5, 2021 10:00 AM EDT

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WASHINGTON, April 5, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, the Food Is Medicine Coalition (FIMC), a national coalition of nonprofits focused on the intersection of nutrition and healthcare, respectfully offered policy recommendations related to medically tailored meals in a letter to Xavier Becerra, the new secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

As medically tailored meal (MTMs) providers who serve people in communities across the country who are too sick to shop or cook for themselves, FIMC recognizes nutrition as a key social determinant of health and addresses health equity by rebalancing health in favor of our clients through the services we provide. Robust research shows that when MTMs are included as part of a treatment plan for those at highest risk in our communities, the service results in higher patient satisfaction, better health outcomes and lower healthcare costs. Receipt of MTMs (as compared to a group of comparable individuals who did not receive MTMs) is associated with:

  • Reduction in emergency department visits of dually eligible individuals by 70%
  • Reduction in inpatient hospital admissions by 52%
  • Reduction in admission to skilled nursing facilities by 72%
  • 16% net decrease in health care costs for over 800 individuals receiving the service over a 5-year period.

Despite this evidence, there has been limited federal support for MTMs. To correct this service gap, FIMC agencies for years have fostered healthcare innovation through Medicaid, Medicare and other healthcare funding streams, further demonstrating the efficacy of the MTM intervention. The COVID-19 pandemic has only underscored the urgent need for MTM, as FIMC agencies remained open throughout the pandemic to continue to serve their clients and expand meal delivery services to those dealing with food insecurity at home.

"Racial inequity and socioeconomic disparity have resulted in lack of access to proper nutrition for many. This has become a major public health issue in our country and disproportionally affects the communities we serve. Our experience as service providers, as well as the peer-reviewed research, show that MTMs are one of the least expensive and most effective ways to improve our healthcare system in an equitable way. The time has come to acknowledge the efficacy of administering MTMs on a broader scale and to implement policies that make that provision a reality," said Karen Pearl, President & CEO of God's Love We Deliver in New York and Chair of the Food Is Medicine Coalition.

In the letter to Secretary Becerra, FIMC made the following recommendations:

Immediate Opportunities

While making MTMs a fully reimbursable benefit for all who could benefit in Medicare and Medicaid is the ultimate goal for the Administration, FIMC recommended expanding on existing successful programs that incorporate MTMs during the first year.

  • Fully fund and implement pilot MTM programs in the Medicare and Medicaid programs;
  • Expand funding and programmatic opportunities for medically tailored meals within Title III of the Older Americans Act;
  • Increase Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program funding to support all the People Living With HIV/AIDS (PWH) that come to FIMC agencies in need;
  • Provide research funding for MTM.

Longer-Term Opportunities

For the Administration, FIMC turned to broader systemic changes that integrate MTM into the clinical structure of healthcare delivery and support recovery and health for high-risk populations.

  • Modernize Medicare and Medicaid to make MTMs a fully reimbursable benefit for people living with severe illness;
  • Increase funding and institutional support for new research on MTMs and other "food is medicine" interventions;
  • Improve quality standards for nutrition interventions;
  • Connect clinical systems to the social services safety net by implementing universal screening for food insecurity and malnutrition; increasing nutrition education among healthcare providers; improving coordination of referrals to the MTM intervention; and building medical coding of food insecurity, malnutrition, and their treatments.

"FIMC knows that early and reliable access to medically tailored meals helps critically and chronically ill individuals live healthy and productive lives, produces better overall health outcomes, and reduces health care costs. It is a solution that improves population and individual health, makes an individual's experience of care better, and has been proven to reduce costs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans have gone through a very trying time, and the agencies of FIMC have strived to represent the best of our country. We are ready to continue serving and working to bring our life-saving service to all those in need across the country." ~ David Waters, CEO of Community Servings in Boston, MA

About the Food Is Medicine CoalitionThe Food Is Medicine Coalition (FIMC) is a coalition of nonprofit medically tailored meal providers who serve people in communities across the country who are too sick to shop or cook for themselves. Medically tailored meals (MTMs) are delivered to individuals living with severe illness through a referral from a medical professional or healthcare plan. Meal plans are tailored to the medical needs of the recipient by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), and are designed to improve health outcomes, lower cost of care and increase patient satisfaction. Because of their complicated medical situations, most of our clients are unable to eat the food offered by many other emergency food providers. MTMs are delivered to an individual's home. In the last year, collectively, FIMC MTM providers served over 11 million meals to over 48,000 people across multiple states and the District of Columbia. Clients living with a primary diagnosis of HIV, cancer or diabetes made up the majority of those that received meals from FIMC agencies in the last year, however, the plurality of clients live with multiple diagnoses at once. For more information, visit www.fimcoalition.org.

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SOURCE Food Is Medicine Coalition



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