Meal Delivery Programs Reduce the Use of Costly Health Care in Dually Eligible Medicare and Medicaid Beneficiaries

Seth A. Berkowitz
Jean Terranova
Caterina Hill
Toyin Ajayi
Todd Linsky
Todd Linsky
Lori W. Tishler
Darren A. DeWalt
Peer-Reviewed Article
April 2018

Food insecurity is associated with poor health and increased health care costs, a trend that particularly salient among individuals who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. This study examined whether home delivery of either medically tailored meals or non-tailored food delivery to nutritionally vulnerable patients can reduce the use of costly health services and decrease medical spending among dually eligible individuals enrolled in a fully integrated plan through Commonwealth Care Alliance in Massachusetts.

Dually eligible participants in both the medically tailored meal program and non-tailored food program had fewer emergency department visits than those who did not participate. Participants in the medically tailored meal program also had fewer inpatient admissions and lower medical spending, while those in the non-tailored food program were only associated with lower medical spending.

The findings demonstrate the promise for meal delivery programs — particularly those tailored to recipients’ medical needs — to reduce the use of costly health care and decrease spending for vulnerable patients. In addition, this study suggests that meal delivery may be an important way to improve the health of high-need dually eligible patients.

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