Study: Meal delivery programs linked to fewer emergency visits, lower costs

Providing home-delivered meals to food insecure people may decrease healthcare spending, according to a study published by Health Affairs.

For the study, researchers examined data for members of Commonwealth Care Alliance, a Boston-based nonprofit healthcare organization that serves adults ages 21 to 64 who are dually eligible for MassHealth (Medicaid) and Medicare. They specifically looked at members who were enrolled in a medically tailored or nontailored meal delivery program for at least six continuous months between January 2014 and January 2016. More than 130 medically tailored meals program participants and 624 nontailored food program participants were then compared with CCA members who were not enrolled in a meal program.

Researchers found medically tailored meals program participants experienced fewer emergency department visits, inpatient admissions and emergency transportation use compared with nonparticipants. They said nontailored food program participants also saw fewer ED visits and emergency transportation use, but not fewer inpatient admissions.

Additionally, both the medically tailored meal program and the nontailored food program were associated with lower medical spending, according to the study. The estimated average monthly medical spending per person was $843 for the medically tailored meals program compared with $1,413 for nonparticipants. For the nontailored food program, it was $1,007 for participants and $1,163 for nonparticipants.

"These findings suggest the potential for meal delivery programs to reduce the use of costly healthcare and decrease spending for vulnerable patients," the study authors concluded.


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