MVP launches free meal delivery program for recently hospitalized seniors

Insurer: Good nutrition key to faster recovery, fewer readmissions

Photo of Bethany Bump

SCHENECTADY — MVP Health Care is partnering with a national meal delivery service to provide healthy meals to its older members who have recently been hospitalized.

The partnership between the Schenectady-based health insurer and Mom's Meals, a fast-growing company based in Iowa, is designed to speed recovery and keep members out of the hospital. It will be eligible to MVP Medicare Advantage members starting Jan. 1, 2020.

"There is an undeniable link between nutrition and wellness," said Patrick Glavey, MVP's senior leader for Medicare. "Not all readmissions are preventable. However, providing access to healthy food after discharge has proven to lower the chances a member will be readmitted. This unique benefit will not only improve outcomes for our members but will ultimately lead to lower costs."

Glavey said Mom's Meals was one of several meal delivery services MVP considered as part of a request for proposals process. Volunteers taste-tested meals from each vendor and assigned them scores. Mom's Meals, which offers a menu for nine different health conditions, ranked the highest.

The company was founded in 1999 by Barb Anderson and her family, who became concerned that Anderson's aging mother was no longer able to prepare fresh, wholesome meals for herself, and her family lived too far away to do it for her.

Today, the company is one of the nation's leading providers of refrigerated, home-delivered meals. It has especially taken off among health care organizations, who are increasingly looking to address social determinants of health — such as lack of transportation or access to affordable, healthy food — as a way to reduce hospital readmissions and costs.

"A critical factor to recovery is nutrition," Glavey said. "But one of the challenges for some of our senior population is they don't have a good support system to help with that once they leave the hospital."

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Primary Care and Community Health found that Medicaid patients who participated in a meal delivery service and nutrition therapy pilot in the Philadelphia area saw improved health outcomes including fewer complications and reduced readmission rates. Mean monthly health care costs also fell.

Through the Mom's Meals program, MVP Medicare Advantage members can receive seven free lunches and seven free dinners following an in-patient hospital stay. The meals are packaged to last for up to two weeks in a refrigerator.

Ellis Medicine, a Schenectady-based hospital and health system, instituted a similar program earlier this year to provide recently discharged patients who were unable to cook or leave their home due to illness with meals tailored to their specific health needs.

Also new next year for MVP Medicare Advantage members is a reward program. Individuals who complete various health and wellness activities can earn up to $100 in rewards, the insurer announced.

The new programs come as MVP expands its Medicare Advantage coverage to seven new counties in the North Country and Southern Tier, including Allegany, Cattaraugus, Clinton, Franklin, Hamilton, Lewis and St. Lawrence.

The insurer has more than 65,000 Medicare Advantage members across New York and Vermont.