Arlington, VA, February 4, 2019 – Following the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) release of its Contract Year 2020 Annual Medicare Advantage (MA) Advance Notice and Draft Call Letter on January 30, Meals on Wheels America President and CEO Ellie Hollander today issued the following statement:
Meals on Wheels America supports CMS’ proposal in its MA Advance Notice and Draft Call Letter to establish a new category of supplemental benefits – Special Supplemental Benefits for the Chronically Ill (SSBCI) – as directed by the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2018. In this proposal, MA plans would be allowed to offer non-primarily health related supplemental benefits to chronically ill enrollees, including those that help to address social determinants of health, such as home-delivered meals.
We support these expanded supplemental benefits that give MA plans more flexibility to tailor their offerings to the individuals they serve. Nearly nine million seniors face the threat of hunger, and 83% of food insecure seniors and 83% of physically-impaired seniors likely need – but are not receiving – home-delivered meal services. As MA plan membership continues to rise and the senior population is set to nearly double by 2060, now is a valuable opportunity to leverage MA plans as a channel to serve more vulnerable seniors in need.
Community-based Meals on Wheels programs deliver a nutritious meal to address the specific health conditions of the senior, an in-home safety check to detect hazards inside or outside of the home, a friendly visit to combat social isolation and an assessment of any changes that might impact future medical needs, serving as the first line of sight for potential dangers or changes in condition. Supplementing traditional healthcare services with community-based services is a powerful – and cost-effective – way to keep at-risk seniors healthy and reduce avoidable emergency care and healthcare utilization. In fact, Meals on Wheels can serve a senior for an entire year for the same cost as just one day in a hospital or ten days in a nursing home.
If approved by CMS, expanding MA supplemental benefits could help address the unique needs of millions of homebound seniors and disabled Americans who struggle with hunger and isolation and would serve as a significant step forward. We thank CMS for recognizing the valuable role home-delivered meals play in addressing social determinants of health, and in providing critical person-centered care. As a national organization representing the network of senior nutrition providers across the county, we are eager to work together in the weeks and months ahead to build on these proposals for the health of our seniors, our communities and our nation as a whole.
CMS is accepting public comments on its proposals through Friday, March 1, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. EST here.
About Meals on Wheels America
Meals on Wheels America is the oldest and largest national organization supporting the more than 5,000 community-based programs across the country that are dedicated to addressing senior isolation and hunger. This network exists in virtually every community in America and, along with more than two million staff and volunteers, delivers the nutritious meals, friendly visits and safety checks that enable America's seniors to live nourished lives with independence and dignity. By providing funding, leadership, education, research and advocacy support, Meals on Wheels America empowers its local member programs to strengthen their communities, one senior at a time. For more information, or to find a Meals on Wheels provider near you, visit www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org.
Meals on Wheels America