Health Insurance Claims Data Study

Food insecurity and poor nutrition can lead to chronic health issues and frequent use of expensive medical services, and are increasingly recognized as important social determinants of health. In 2016, 266,500 Massachusetts households, or 9.7%, were food insecure. A recent report estimates that medical costs attributed to food insecurity in Massachusetts were more than $2.4 billion in 2016, and the annual national costs are estimated at $77 billion. The costs attributable to food insecurity are for the treatment of diabetes, obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other illnesses that are clearly linked to poor nutrition.

Community Servings’ health insurance claims data study examines the impact of medically tailored, home-delivered meals provided to individuals who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare services, due to poverty and age or disability. The study, undertaken in partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital and Commonwealth Care Alliance, and funded by AARP Foundation, was published in the April 2018 issue of Health Affairs.

“We know from decades of research that poor diet is associated with worse health, and there is no doubt that poor diet leads to higher costs of care. This study adds evidence that medically tailored meals may have a positive effect on health while lowering the use of expensive healthcare services.”
– Dr. Seth Berkowitz, research author now affiliated with the University of North Carolina School of Medicine

Key Findings

Researchers found that participants in both Community Servings’ medically tailored meals program and a traditional, non-medically tailored home-delivered meals program experienced fewer emergency department visits and emergency transportation services, but only Community Servings clients had fewer inpatient admissions – resulting in a 16% net reduction in healthcare costs. In dollar terms, the average monthly medical costs for medically tailored meals participants was $843, compared to $1,413 for the control group, reflecting gross savings of $570 per month, or net savings (factoring in the cost of the meals) of $220 per month. The study suggests that medically tailored home-delivered meals are a cost-effective approach to managing the health of individuals with complex medical and social needs.

Read the Health Affairs Study
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