Walorski Sponsors Legislation to Pilot Medically Tailored Meals

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Walorski Sponsors Legislation to Pilot Medically Tailored Meals

Bipartisan Bill Would Establish Medicare Pilot Program to Address Link Between Diet, Chronic Illness, and Senior Health

MISHAWAKA, Ind. – U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) today announced the introduction of H.R. 6774, the Medically Tailored Home-Delivered Meals Demonstration Pilot Act of 2020, a new bill that would establish a Medicare pilot program to address the critical link between diet, chronic illness, and senior health.

The bipartisan bill would help ensure nutritious meals reach medically vulnerable seniors in their homes, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, while at the same time providing the data needed to build a more resilient and cost-effective health care system.

“Good nutrition can play a key role in improving health, especially for those living with a chronic illness,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “Getting nutritious, medically tailored meals to vulnerable seniors in their homes would not only lead to better health outcomes but also reduce health care costs in the long-term. This innovative, commonsense solution would strengthen Medicare and help older Americans thrive – especially in these challenging times.”

“There is no doubt that what we eat plays a huge role in our overall health, yet our federal policies are decades behind the science on this. We prioritize treatment instead of prevention by relying on costly hospital visits and expensive prescription drugs instead of addressing the underlying issues that lead to chronic conditions,” said Congressman Jim McGovern. “Our bill hopes to show that by providing medically tailored meals to vulnerable seniors, we can lower hospital admissions, improve outcomes, and save money. It’s time to transform America’s sick-care system into a health-care system, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this important bipartisan bill.”

“As a physician for more than 25 years, I saw the importance of nutrition on the well-being of my patients,” said U.S. Congressman Roger Marshall, M.D. “Clinical evidence continues to suggest that malnutrition of protein and essential micronutrients can increase a person’s susceptibility to infections and other negative health outcomes. Several studies have shown nutrition to play a role in interrupting transmission, reducing susceptibility, and decreasing the severity of the disease symptoms. Our bill aims to provide powerful insight on how medically tailored meals can positively impact the health of seniors and produce cost savings.”

“Medically-tailored meals rely on the simple principle that access to nutritious food is foundational to good health. We’ve long understood the improved outcomes and potential savings associated with preparing healthy meals for vulnerable people. Now, when seniors and those with serious conditions are at the highest risk for contracting COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to invest in their health. As the cofounder of the bipartisan Food is Medicine Working Group with Rep. McGovern, I’m proud to be an original cosponsor of the Medically Tailored Home-Delivered Meals Demonstration Pilot Act, which would pilot the delivery of nutritious, medically-tailored meals to Medicare recipients,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.

BACKGROUND

As of 2016, 62 percent of U.S. adults over the age of 65 were living with one or more chronic conditions. A poor diet contributes to COVID risks, especially for those with underlying chronic health conditions, and a growing body of research demonstrates that medically tailored meals can be a cost-effective strategy for improving health outcomes. These meals are designed by a registered dietitian or other nutrition professional and delivered to an individual living with diet-affected disease like diabetes and congestive heart failure. When included in treatment plans for individuals with complex health conditions, these meals have been shown to reduce overall health care costs by 16 percent while significantly reducing the need for hospitalizations, emergency department use, and emergency transports.

Medicare Parts A and B – covering two-thirds of Medicare enrollees – provide no coverage for medically tailored meals. This bill would take an important first step towards filling this gap by directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct a three-year demonstration pilot program to provide medically tailored meals to some of our nation’s most vulnerable Medicare enrollees. Under the demonstration, recently hospitalized Medicare enrollees with conditions such as congestive heart failure, diabetes, COPD, and kidney disease would receive a medically tailored meal intervention. This bill would provide at least two home-delivered meals per day to the qualified individual as well as any dependents under the age of 18 who reside in the household.

This pilot is separate from but could involve programs like Meals on Wheels that provide nutritious, prepared, ready-to-eat, home-delivered meals for seniors who are homebound and in great economic and medical need. Medically tailored meals would be delivered to individuals living with severe illness through a referral from a medical professional or healthcare plan.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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