This Medicare Advantage Perk Is Soaring in Popularity

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Man baking with a stand mixer
Olena Yakobchuk /

If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you might have noticed that a new perk now is included with your coverage.

About one-quarter of Medicare Advantage plans offer financial assistance for food and produce to eligible enrollees, according to an analysis by consulting firm ATI Advisory. That is an increase from just 2% of plans offering the perk five years ago.

Typically, this assistance is offered to enrollees who have chronic health conditions, according to AARP. Some Medicare Advantage plans also offer benefits such as meal delivery for those being released from a hospital or skilled nursing facility stay.

According to an Axios report, health insurers that are leading the way in offering food benefits are:

  • CVS Health (via Aetna and other health plans)
  • Elevance Health
  • Humana

This type of extra coverage is the result of two recent changes.

In 2019, Medicare Advantage plans began offering supplemental benefits related to health. This includes things such as meal deliveries after a hospital stay or transportation to medical appointments.

One year later, these plans started offering more benefits not explicitly health-related to enrollees with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. Such benefits are known as special supplemental benefits for the chronically ill (SSBCI).

AARP reports that some of the most common SSBCI benefits include allowances to help pay for things such as groceries, pest control and transportation for nonmedical needs.

People enrolled Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plans have better odds of becoming eligible for grocery assistance, according to AARP. Such plans provide benefits to those with specific chronic conditions or those eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.

Enrollees who are eligible for grocery assistance typically receive prepaid debit cards monthly or quarterly that they can use to pay for groceries. These cards also can be used to purchase over-the-counter medications at some grocery stores or drugstores.

Axios reports that to date, there is no comprehensive data that shows how many enrollees eligible for grocery assistance actually take advantage of the perk.

Medicare Advantage plans have pros and cons, but they are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to Original Medicare. For more on this trend, check out “The 9 Biggest Reasons People Choose Medicare Advantage Plans.”

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