McGovern, Malliotakis, Pingree, Evans and Fitzpatrick Introduce Legislation to Create a Medically Tailored Meals Demonstration Program in Medicare

  • Medically Tailored Meals

WASHINGTON, D.C.—On Thursday, December 14, Representatives James P. McGovern (D-MA), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Dwight Evans (D-PA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced bipartisan legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to establish a nationwide pilot program through Medicare to provide seniors with diet-impacted diseases medically tailored meals in the comfort of their own home, building a more resilient and cost-effective health care system.

The Medically Tailored Home-Delivered Meals Demonstration Pilot Act (H.R. 6780) would test various Medicare payment and delivery models to improve health outcomes for some of the nation’s most vulnerable seniors, reduce the rate of hospital readmissions, and increase access to healthy foods while saving the Medicare program, and ultimately taxpayers, money.

“Researchers have long-established the link between what we eat and our overall health, yet our institutions, be it Congress or our health care system, have traditionally prioritized expensive hospital stays and Big Pharma profits, while avoiding investments in evidence-based approaches that can save lives and save taxpayers money,” said Congressman McGovern. “Our bipartisan bill finally embraces the commonsense thinking that food is medicine. It can lower hospital admissions, improve outcomes, and transform health and healing. Piloting a medically tailored meals program was a thoughtful recommendation from the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health and I’m grateful to the incredible medically tailored meal providers across America, like Community Servings right here in Massachusetts, who are doing the hard work on the ground every day. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this important bill.”

“The large majority of seniors 60 years of age and up are living with one or more chronic health conditions that can limit their ability to shop or cook for themselves,” said Congresswoman Malliotakis. “By establishing a Medicare-covered pilot program to deliver nutritious and medically tailored meals to homes, we can provide our vulnerable seniors with peace of mind, improve their overall health and lower their healthcare costs by reducing their hospital readmission rates.”

“Nutritious food is foundational to good health. We have long understood that interventions to improve access and affordability of healthy, nutritious foods are effective, improving health outcomes and lowering health care spending,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “Medically tailored meals have been shown to reduce inpatient hospital admissions and emergency department visits. With more than half of U.S. adults over 65 suffering from one or more chronic conditions, advancing Medically Tailored Home-Delivered Meals Demonstration Pilot Act would have a major impact for vulnerable populations. I’m proud to be an original cosponsor of this legislation to help strengthen Medicare and help older Mainers and Americans thrive.”

“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,” said Congressman Evans.

"Medically-tailored meals are often a health necessity for seniors and those battling serious health challenges," said Congressman Fitzpatrick. "I am proud to join this bipartisan legislation to ensure that individuals who are in need of specialized diets in my district and communities across the country can utilize Medicare benefits for these meals."

“Including medically tailored meals (MTMs) in healthcare is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do: access to MTMs reduce costs, improve health and change lives,” said Executive Director of the Food is Medicine Coalition Alissa Wassung. “As the leader of The Food is Medicine Coalition (FIMC), the national coalition of the nonprofits who created the community-based medically tailored meal intervention nearly 40 years ago and maintain the nutrition standards for them, we believe that the introduction of this bill is a significant step toward making this lifesaving service more accessible to those who need it and building a more equitable healthcare system.”

What does the Medically Tailored Home-Delivered Meals Demonstration Pilot Act do?

The bill would establish a 4-year nationwide demonstration program through Medicare to provide MTMs to eligible Medicare beneficiaries with diet-impacted diseases -- such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or COPD, at 20 hospitals – with special consideration given to those in rural and underserved areas. Selected hospitals must partner with a community MTM organization to provide two home-delivered MTMs per day to eligible seniors for at least 12 weeks. By definition, MTMs are individually tailored to the medical needs of recipients by Registered Dieticians (RDNs).

The bill requires an evaluation of various payment and delivery models, specifically aimed at testing delivery options in rural areas. A final evaluation will also include an assessment of the impact MTMs have on readmissions, hospital costs, and clinical outcomes. 

How are Medically Tailored Meals different from Meals on Wheels?

One of the most common questions is how these two important nutrition interventions for seniors differ. The key difference between MTMs and the meals provided under Meals on Wheels program is that MTMs must be recommended by a healthcare professional, designed by RDNs and are individually tailored to the specific health needs of the recipient. Recipients of the MTM intervention receive ongoing nutrition counseling, education and, if needed, medical nutrition therapy from an RDN throughout their receipt of meals.

Read the full text of the legislation here.