PHILADELPHIA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--As the nation grapples with the high cost of treating those with chronic illnesses, food as medicine programs are gaining support as an effective strategy for improving health outcomes and reducing medical costs. The bipartisan Food is Medicine Working Group of the House Hunger Caucus, which is exploring policies to ensure more chronically ill people have access to medically tailored meals, will hold a congressional briefing May 9 in Washington D.C. to hear from national leaders that have been actively tackling the issue.
Among those addressing the caucus will be William S. George, president and CEO of Health Partners Plans (HPP), a Pennsylvania-based managed care organization that pioneered a food as medicine program with the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA). MANNA is a non-profit organization that cooks and delivers nutritious medically-appropriate meals to those battling life-threatening illnesses. The partnership provides MANNA’s medically tailored meals to HPP’s most chronically ill Medicaid and Medicare members. Mr. George will discuss the program’s success in improving health outcomes for members while reducing medical costs.
Since the partnership’s inception in 2015, more than 560,000 meals have been delivered to more than 2,100 HPP members suffering from various illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, malnutrition and kidney failure, at no cost to members. The findings, for the population that ended services at least six months ago, show lower HbA1c scores for 26 percent of diabetic members and decreased utilization and costs for inpatient admissions and emergency room visits. Results also show an overall medical cost reduction of 19 percent on a per member per month basis.
“Traditional methods of care do not always work, particularly when you are serving a population that battles social determinants to health like food insecurity,” said Mr. George. “It’s our responsibility as a health insurer to innovate beyond the norms, put members first and provide the right kind of care, rather than just more care.”
Since poor nutrition is a leading cause of chronic illness for some of its members, HPP partnered with MANNA to integrate MANNA’s evidence-based food as medicine model into HPP’s holistic care management approach. HPP was the first and only health plan to support this endeavor in Pennsylvania at the time and among one of the few managed care organizations to implement it on a large scale.
“Research shows the medical benefits of therapeutic nutrition,” said Susan Daugherty, CEO of MANNA. “And our meals, with modifications for 11 different diets, bring nourishment, life, health and hope to those in need.”
HPP members who are medically vulnerable receive three MANNA meals a day for seven days a week for a time period of six to 18 weeks. They also receive nutrition counseling and comprehensive care management to enable them to manage their illness independently.
“We’ve proven that medical nutrition therapy works,” said Mr. George. “And it is our hope that our findings and the groundwork provided in our published call to action paper will inspire policymakers, government institutions, and most especially, the health care industry to adopt the food as medicine model to alleviate chronic diseases and lower health care costs associated with treating such conditions.”
About Health Partners Plans
Health Partners Plans, an innovative not-for-profit managed care organization, is the only Medicaid plan in Pennsylvania and is among just 11 Medicaid plans nationwide with an accreditation status of Excellent as of September 26, 2017. This is the highest status bestowed by the National Committee for Quality Assurance. Health Partners Plans serves more than 283,000 members in Southeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh/Capital region. It provides a broad range of health coverage options through Health Partners Medicare, Health Partners (Medicaid) and KidzPartners (Children’s Health Insurance Program) plans. Founded more than 30 years ago, Health Partners Plans is one of the few hospital-owned health plans in the country. Learn more about how Health Partners Plans is doing it right at HealthPartnersPlans.com, twitter.com/HPPlans and facebook.com/healthpartnersplans.
Founded in 1990 as a grassroots response to the AIDS crisis, in 2006 MANNA expanded eligibility criteria to include anyone battling a severe illness where diet would play a significant role in healing, and began offering comprehensive nutrition to each client in 2008. Over the years, MANNA has embraced innovation and evolved into a nationally recognized, evidence-based model that improves health outcomes for people with any serious illness while also reducing the cost of care. The MANNA Model consists of 21 medically tailored meals per week coupled with nutrition counseling provided by a registered dietitian and is an effective health intervention grounded in the latest nutrition science. In 2013, MANNA published the first peer-reviewed research documenting the impact of medical nutrition therapy and home-delivered medically tailored meals as part of medical treatment. Learn more about MANNA’s innovated approach to nutrition at mannapa.org, twitter.com/MANNANourishes, and facebook.com/mannapa.