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Study: Medically Tailored Meal Delivery Reduces Health Care Costs

Posted on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 7:33 PM

A Massachusetts study shows that meal delivery to patients who are nutritionally vulnerable could reduce their need for expensive health care by limiting or preventing hospital admissions, ER visits, and ambulance calls. This study is published in the April edition of Health Affairs.

The study examined medical claims for Medicare and Medicaid eligible adults, as well as two meal programs in Massachusetts. The study broke the patients into three groups: one group received meals that were catered to their specific health conditions by a nutritionist, the second group received nutritious meals that were not catered to their medical condition, and a third control group of patients with similar illnesses who did not receive any meal delivery.

“Compared with matched nonparticipants, participants had fewer emergency department visits in both the medically tailored meal program and the nontailored food program,” wrote the study’s authors. “Participants in the medically tailored meal program also had fewer inpatient admissions and lower medical spending. Participation in the nontailored food program was not associated with fewer inpatient admissions but was associated with lower medical spending. These findings suggest the potential for meal delivery programs to reduce the use of costly health care and decrease spending for vulnerable patients.”

As for the financial benefits, the control group (no meal delivery), had an average monthly medical cost of $1,413. The group who received meals tailored to their medical conditions, had medical costs of $843, a savings of $570. When you factor in the cost of those meals, the net savings was still $220 a month.

“Epidemiological studies have associated food insecurity with a large and growing number of health conditions. Furthermore, food insecurity may exacerbate these illnesses once they occur. For example, food insecurity is associated with worse blood sugar control among diabetes patients and increased use of expensive health care services, such as inpatient admissions and emergency department visits. Given all this, it is not surprising that food insecurity is estimated to result in $77 billion in excess health care expenditures annually. Even more importantly, food insecurity has been associated with a 30 percent increased risk of mortality.”

Source: NAHC Report

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