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McGovern, Walorski, Pingree, Evans Introduce Legislation to Address Gaps in Medicare Coverage that Lead to Poor Health Outcomes

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Washington, September 24, 2021 | comments
Bipartisan Bill Would Create a Pilot Program to Provide Medically Vulnerable Seniors with Nutritious Meals; Address Links Between Diet and Chronic Illness
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WASHINGTON, D.C.Today, Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA), Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and Congressman Dwight Evans (D-PA) announced the introduction of legislation in the House of Representatives that would establish a new Medicare pilot program to keep seniors healthy and address the critical link between diet and chronic illness.

Their program provides healthy, medically-tailored meals directly to vulnerable seniors in their homes and would help researchers better understand how we can build a more resilient and cost-effective health care system.

“There is no doubt that what we eat plays a huge role in our overall health, yet our federal policies are decades behind the science on this. We prioritize treatment instead of prevention by relying on costly hospital visits and expensive prescription drugs instead of addressing the underlying issues that lead to chronic conditions,” said Congressman McGovern. “Our bill hopes to show that by providing medically tailored meals to vulnerable seniors, we can lower hospital admissions, improve outcomes, and save money. It’s time to transform America’s sick-care system into a health-care system, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this important bipartisan bill.”

“Good nutrition can play a key role in improving health, especially for those living with a chronic illness,” said Congresswoman Walorski. “Getting nutritious, medically tailored meals to vulnerable seniors in their homes would not only lead to better health outcomes but also reduce health care costs in the long-term. This innovative, commonsense solution would strengthen Medicare and help older Americans thrive.”

“Medically-tailored meals rely on the simple principle that access to nutritious food is foundational to good health. We’ve long understood the improved outcomes and potential savings associated with preparing healthy meals for vulnerable people. Now, when seniors and those with serious conditions are at the highest risk for contracting COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to invest in their health. As the cofounder of the bipartisan Food is Medicine Working Group with Rep. McGovern, I’m proud to be an original cosponsor of the Medically Tailored Home-Delivered Meals Demonstration Pilot Act, which would pilot the delivery of nutritious, medically-tailored meals to Medicare recipients,” said Congresswoman Pingree.

Congressman Evans said, “I have long said that food is medicine, and this bill would use that principle to help fill a serious gap for many vulnerable seniors.”

About the Medically Tailored Home-Delivered Meals Demonstration Pilot Act of 2021:

62% of U.S. adults over the age of 65 live with one or more chronic conditions. A poor diet contributes to COVID risks, especially for those with underlying chronic health conditions, and a growing body of research demonstrates that medically tailored meals can be a cost-effective strategy for improving health outcomes. These meals are designed by a nutrition professional and delivered to an individual living with diet-affected disease like diabetes and congestive heart failure. When included in treatment plans for individuals with complex health conditions, medically tailored meals have been shown to reduce overall health care costs by 16% while significantly reducing the need for hospitalizations.

Medicare Parts A and B—covering two-thirds of Medicare enrollees—provide no coverage for medically tailored meals. This bill would fill this gap by directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct a 3-year demonstration pilot program to provide medically tailored meals to some of our nation’s most vulnerable Medicare enrollees. Recently hospitalized Medicare enrollees with conditions such as congestive heart failure, diabetes, COPD, and kidney disease would receive a medically tailored meal intervention. This pilot would be separate from but could involve programs like Meals on Wheels that provide nutritious, prepared, ready-to-eat, home-delivered meals for seniors who are homebound. Medically tailored meals would be delivered to individuals living with severe illness through a referral from a medical professional or healthcare plan.

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