Guideline change could slow the growth of US ‘food as medicine’ programs

Currently, 6 in 10 Americans have at least one chronic disease, many exacerbated by unhealthy diets. These diet-related chronic diseases account for almost 20% of all U.S. healthcare costs annually. That is why, for the past several years, organizations like About Fresh, a Boston-based nonprofit, have been developing tools to make such produce prescriptions possible for those who can’t afford the fresh fruits and vegetables they need.

Research shows that affordability is the leading barrier to healthy eating among low-income Americans. Without targeted assistance to purchase healthy foods, Medicaid members struggling to afford the nutritious food they need

However, sources claim that recent guidelines issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are undermining the success of Fresh Connect and programs like it. Despite introducing novel and promising financing mechanisms for food-as-medicine, they ultimately limit the sector’s ability to deploy food-as-medicine interventions, refine their delivery, and better understand their impact.

As CMS expanded innovative funding mechanisms, it also limited patient enrolment in food-as-medicine and other health-related social needs programs to six months per program per year.


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