Health plan food benefit programs help remove barriers to healthy eating

Health plan food benefit programs help remove barriers to healthy eating

By Medline Newsroom Staff | November 16, 2023

Patient Experience

Health plan food benefit programs help remove barriers to healthy eating

Medicare Advantage and other health plans offer fresh food delivery and prepared meals

Health plan food benefit programs help remove barriers to healthy eating

A nutrient-rich diet is essential for maintaining optimal health. Nutritious food contributes to overall wellness; protects against heart disease, diabetes and cancer; and can lower annual medical costs by an estimated average of $1,800 each year.

With a growing body of research supporting the benefits of healthy eating, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services developed a Food as Medicine program—based on the growing movement with the same name. In addition, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will require Medicare Advantage Organizations participating in the Value Based Insurance Design model to offer supplemented benefits in at least two of three health-related social need areas—food, transportation or housing—by 2025.

To help promote healthy eating among seniors, Medicare Advantage and other health plans are offering added benefit solutions that include fresh food delivery and prepared meals. The Medline Newsroom recently spoke with Amy Rogers, BSN, RN, senior clinical resource manager for Medline Nutrition, about the food as medicine movement, and Medline’s new Food Benefit Solution.

Q. Medline Newsroom: What is the thinking behind the food as medicine movement?

A. Amy Rogers, BSN, RN: The food as medicine movement is the result of emerging literature and research supporting the links between the type and amount of food we consume and our overall health, with poor health associated with poor nutrition. Food provides our basic energy needs; it also protects against chronic disease, aids in disease management and supports mental health.

We know that an investment in healthy food and habits is an investment in future health. Diet-related health conditions cost the U.S. $1.2 trillion each year and are the leading cause of mortality1. Food and nutrition programs that provide individuals with medically tailored meals, produce prescriptions and/or medically tailored groceries can make a positive impact on their health and overall cost of care.

Q. How are health insurance plans helping senior members access healthier food options?

A. Many health insurance plans now offer food benefit programs to their members to improve overall health. The benefit programs are customized to meet member needs and may include: medically tailored meals, grocery boxes, grocery allowances and produce prescriptions. Food benefits are sent directly to member homes helping to eliminate barriers associated with not living near grocery stores (food deserts), and/or a lack of transportation. These benefits can also include educational counseling to teach members the impact healthy eating has on their well-being.

Medline Food Benefit Solution

Medline’s Food Benefit Solution includes produce boxes, grocery boxes and prepared foods, all delivered directly to member homes

Q. What does this mean for member retention initiatives?

A. Offering food benefits to members is a huge draw for member satisfaction and retention. Many older adults are at risk for food insecurity and relieving that burden is a huge help. The average Medicare beneficiary has access to 43 Medicare Advantage plans. With so many choices, food benefits are a way to distinguish one plan from another and retain members. In 2022, 71% of Medicare Advantage plans offer a home-delivered meal benefit. Research also found that 77% of members enjoy healthy meals more than any other healthcare-related activity2.   

Q. What is Medline’s new Food Benefit Solution and why is Medline getting involved in the food category?

A. Medline understands the significance food has on an individual’s health. Providing healthy food is a cost-effective intervention to improve overall health and decrease chronic disease. Medline utilizes our partnerships and unmatched logistical capabilities to bring healthy food directly to member homes nationwide.

Through Medline’s Food Benefit Solution, members can easily go online and utilize their allotted benefits to select from three food categories:

  • Produce Boxes: Vegetable only, fruit only, or a combination of both
  • Grocery Boxes: Variety boxes with prepared meals, produce, and/or healthy meal ingredients, staples and snacks
  • Prepared Foods: five, seven, ten and fourteen-meal combination boxes

The produce is locally- and regionally sourced, the grocery options are selected for their healthy ingredients, and the prepared and medically-tailored meals have no additives or fillers.

Medline is sponsoring a webinar,
“Food as medicine: Challenges and solutions to help members live well,”
with Lisa Roberson, RDN, LD, at 10 a.m. CT on Thursday, December 7. Register here.

Q. How is the program helping Medicare beneficiaries?

A. Providing food directly to a member’s home makes it easier to obtain and consume healthy food by decreasing the financial burden of groceries and eliminating transportation and other obstacles. If members are financially insecure, they do not need to choose between paying for healthy food, their medication or other bills and expenses. Furthermore, prepared meals make it easier for them to consume the food since there is minimal cooking and prep time.

Q. How do Medicare Advantage organizations benefit from these add-ons? 

A. Medicare Advantage covers more than 60 million individuals, many with complex conditions and care needs6. People who are elderly with disabilities face significant challenges in accessing healthy food. Offering a food program that sends healthy foods directly to a member’s home eliminates the financial and physical barriers to healthy foods, improving overall outcomes and cost of care.

Register for the upcoming webinar, “Food as medicine: Challenges and solutions to help members live well,” with Lisa Roberson, RDN, LD, at 10 a.m. CT on Thursday, December 7.

Read more about Medline’s new Food Benefit Solution Program.


  1. Food Is Medicine Movement—Key Actions Inside and Outside the Government Sara N. Bleich, PhD; Roxanne Dupuis, PhD; Hilary K. Seligman, MD, MAS
  2. Source: Mom’s Meals proprietary research in partnership with The JAY Group. August 2020. IVR telephone survey via outbound calls to Medicare and Medicaid patients; Total responders: Medicare = 1,378/Medicaid = 969
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Medline Newsroom Staff

Medline Newsroom Staff

Medline's newsroom staff researches and reports on the latest news and trends in healthcare.

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