A growing problem for many older Americans is access to healthy food. Poor nutrition can lead to serious health complications, especially for those with chronic conditions. The rising cost of care for individuals with chronic conditions is a growing concern for many healthcare plans.
To address the nutritional needs of older adults and individuals with chronic diseases, some Medicare Advantage plans may cover home-delivered meals and transportation for non-medical needs such as groceries.
What is a Medicare Advantage plan?
Medicare Advantage plans are an alternative way of getting your Part A and Part B benefits. Many Medicare Advantage plans also offer other health benefits including vision care, eyeglasses, drug benefits, hearing care, and chiropractic services.
Now, you may be able to include additional support in your Medicare Advantage plan, such as home meal delivery.
Home-delivered Meals Part of Medicare Advantage Plans
In April of 2019, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services released the Medicare Advantage and Part D Call Letter that addressed nutrition concerns in older Americans. The Call Letter allows Medicare Advantage plans to include home-delivered meals and other support services in their benefits for the Plan Year 2020.
By including these benefits, the CMS aims to help plans better customize benefit offerings, address gaps in care, and improve the health outcomes of those with chronic diseases.
Home-delivered meals, among other services, may be included in 2020 plans as part of Special Supplemental Benefits for the Chronically Ill. Medicare Advantage plans can now offer services to chronically ill enrollees if they have a reasonable expectation of improving or maintaining the health of the individual and may not be limited to being primarily health-related benefits.
How do people qualify for home-delivered meals?
To qualify for home meal delivery through a Medicare Advantage plan, an enrolled individual must:
- Meet the criteria for chronically ill. The CMS defines chronically ill as a person with a condition listed in Section 20.2 of Chapter 16b of the Medicare Managed Care Manual. Your insurance provider can help you determine if you meet the criteria. Chronic conditions can include diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, congestive heart failure, stroke, chronic lung disorders, chronic or disabling mental health disorders, and others.
- Be at high risk for hospitalization or other negative health outcomes.
- Need intensive care coordination.
The CMS allows Medicare Advantage plans the flexibility to create internal criteria to determine if individuals meet the guidelines for chronic illness.
Medicare Advantage plans may extend coverage for services that might:
- Prevent or treat illness or injury.
- Reduce emergency medical care.
- Help with the psychological effects of illness or injury.
- Help a person make up for physical problems that reduce function.
Services must be medically appropriate for your needs and be recommended by a doctor.
Things to keep in mind
All Medicare Advantage plans do not offer home-delivered meals. Home meal delivery is an optional supplemental service. This means that plans can choose whether or not they offer services such as home-delivered meals.
- Typically, only Medicare Advantage plans can offer home-delivered meal services.
- To qualify, you need to have a certain health condition or situation (for example, you were just released from the hospital after surgery).
- Meal delivery services can be covered for a limited time.
In addition to being included in Medicare Advantage plans, veterans may be eligible for free home-delivered meals.
How do you sign up for home meal deliveries?
To get home-delivered meal services through your Medicare Advantage plan, check that your plan covers meal deliveries with your insurance provider.
Meals on Wheels of Northeast Ohio is committed to providing nutritious home-delivered meals in Summit, Stark, and Wayne Counties (Ohio). Getting started is easy, and there are no long-term contracts.
The program also offers meals for a variety of specialty diets and the needs of those with chronic conditions.