BOSTON (March 19, 2019, 2:00 p.m. ET)—A team of researchers modeled the health and economic effects of healthy food prescriptions in Medicare and Medicaid. The study, published today in PLOS Medicine, finds that health insurance coverage to offset the cost of healthy food for Medicare and/or Medicaid participants would be highly cost effective after five years and improve health outcomes.
“We found that encouraging people to eat healthy foods in Medicare and Medicaid – healthy food prescriptions – could be as or more cost effective as other common interventions, such as preventative drug treatments for hypertension or high cholesterol,” said co-first author Yujin Lee, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts.
“Healthy food prescriptions are increasingly being considered in private health insurance programs, and the new 2018 Farm Bill includes a $25 million Produce Prescription Program to further evaluate this approach,” she continued.
The study estimated the economic and health benefits that would accrue if 30 percent of the cost of healthy food purchases in supermarkets and grocery stores were covered through Medicare and Medicaid, through an electronic debit card. Two scenarios were modeled: 30 percent coverage of fruit and vegetable purchases; and 30 percent coverage of purchases of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts/seeds, seafood, and plant-based oils.