April 13, 2023

Medically Tailored Meals: One Step Closer to Becoming a Covered Service in Pennsylvania

One of the greatest challenges people battling serious illness experience is access to nutritious food, due to a combination of factors including affordability, education, and environment. Yet, many health conditions require proper nutrition as part of their treatment plan.  For more than 30 years MANNA has strived to meet the nutrition needs of our critically ill neighbors by developing and providing specialized diets–medically tailored meals (MTMs)–  as well as access to nutrition education from MANNA Registered Dietitian Nutritionists  to improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs. In fact, research continues to point to the correlation between nutrition and overall health, as well as the significant healthcare savings our country would see if MTMs became a mandated, covered benefit. Through our own original research, we found that our clients’ average monthly healthcare costs were approximately $13,000 less after starting our program — a 31% cost savings. In addition, those clients’ rate of hospitalization was 50% lower, and those who were hospitalized had stays that were 37% shorter.

As a result of the 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, there is an increasing national focus on MTMs. Each day we feel one step closer to policies that increase access to better nutrition for all — especially today. We are excited to share that a bill to establish a Medically Tailored Meals Pilot Program across the state of Pennsylvania has officially been introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as House Bill 667 (HB 667). The program would allow hospitals statewide to refer qualified individuals for MTM programs and nutrition counseling, which would greatly increase ease of access to better nutrition. HB 667 was introduced along with a companion resolution encouraging health insurers to provide coverage for MTMs for Pennsylvania beneficiaries.

The Importance of this Bill

At MANNA, we’ve long understood the impact MTMs can have on individuals and their health. Over the years, MANNA has advocated for policy changes to get MTMs recognized as a mandated covered benefit, and HB 667 is one major step in the right direction. This bill would encourage the use of MTMs and nutrition counseling to help those battling serious illness improve nutrition and avoid hospital admissions or readmissions. If HB 667 is passed, it will show that by providing MTMs to those who need it, we can lower hospital admissions, improve health outcomes, and save money. At a time when food insecurity is high and access to care is low for so many of our residents, insurance coverage of these prescribed diets could go a long way to providing the health benefit that all Pennsylvanians should be afforded.

We Need YOU to Help Pass HB 667, the Medically Tailored Meals Pilot Program

We are one step closer to creating a healthcare system that recognizes the healing efforts of proper food and nutrition for all. The time is now to transform America’s healthcare system, and we urge you to help join our fight and contact your elected officials, especially if your legislator is a member of the Committee on Human Services, to support the passing of HB 667.

We’d like to express our sincere thanks to Representative Donna Johnson Bullock and all those who co-sponsored this important legislation. We are grateful for their leadership in recognizing the importance of MTMs and nutrition education for many of their constituents and championing this important legislation to ensure access to all PA residents who need it. We are excited to see more states continue to recognize the power of Food as Medicine can’t wait to see what the months ahead hold.