As pandemic-driven boosts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits dissipate, the Biden Administration is granting states permission to use Medicaid funds to pay for groceries and nutritional counseling, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The effort supports "food as medicine" programs that promote healthy eating as a way to improve consumers' health and well-being.
Every adult knows how to budget (I hope). They also know when you spend money out of 1 area for another, the first area suffers. So, why wld our gov't want to use Medicaid funds to buy groceries. If they can't spend grocery money on healthy food now, how will gvng them more help?— DianeW (@w53115978) February 14, 2023
The food-as-medicine health care approach is driven by the idea that consumers with access to healthy food can improve their overall health, leading to fewer doctor visits and less money spent on care and prescription drugs.
Opponents of the program argue that shoppers who haven't already been buying healthy foods are unlikely to change their habits and given that SNAP benefits exist to provide low-income families with groceries, naysayers see the new Medicaid interpretation as redundant.
“We already have the SNAP program,” Gary D. Alexander, head of the Medicaid and Health Safety Net Initiative for Paragon Health Institute, told the Journal. “It seems like it’s blurring the lines.”
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Though the change has been approved federally, specifics about what items can be purchased and which nutritional counseling programs beneficiaries can enroll in are up to the states. Potential programs include medically tailored, delivered food programs and nutritional cooking classes, which are otherwise typically costly and not covered by health insurance.