Study: Home-delivered meals could save money for Medicare

WASHINGTON (AP) — Medicare could save $1.57 for every dollar spent delivering free healthy meals to frail seniors after a hospitalization, according to a new study that comes as lawmakers look to restrain costs by promoting patients’ well-being.

The report Thursday from the Bipartisan Policy Center addresses ways that Medicare can do a better job coordinating care for chronically ill patients, who account for most of the program’s $650 billion annual cost. There’s a growing recognition that practical services like meal delivery can make a difference helping older people avoid health flare-ups that can send them to the hospital .

“If you were going to offer meals to every Medicare beneficiary, it would be cost-prohibitive,” said Katherine Hayes, health policy director for the center. “By targeting it to a very, very sick group of people is how we were able to show there could be savings.”

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking Democrat on the committee that oversees Medicare, said lawmakers recognize the value of providing additional support services for patients and he’d be interested in expanding such benefits for seniors in traditional Medicare.

The Bipartisan Policy Center asked health policy consultant Ananya Health Innovations to analyze the potential impact of a narrowly tailored meal benefit for Medicare.

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