Media Coverage: Pennsylvania researchers to study insurer effort to address food insecurity


Health researchers in Pennsylvania plan to study in detail the type of impact a health insurer can make in supporting non-medical interventions that address social determinants of health such as food insecurity.

An estimated 55 percent of eligible older Pennsylvanians are not enrolled in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Benefits Data Trust, a national nonprofit organization, is working with UPMC Health Plan to increase SNAP enrollment for persons receiving care through the Community Health Choices (CHC) program, which focuses on members who have a disability or are dual-eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.

Members enrolled in the CHC program will receive help navigating the SNAP enrollment process through targeted outreach and phone-based eligibility screening and application assistance.

Health system executives and payers are eager to see evidence that paying for addressing social needs will have both outcome and financial returns on investment. Benefits Data Trust received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation‘s Systems for Action (S4A) program to work with the UPMC Center for High-Value Health Care to evaluate health and cost outcomes when an insurance plan pays for its members in Pennsylvania to enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Since inception in 2005, BDT has screened more than one million households and secured over $7 billion in benefits and services.

“We know that increasing access to food through SNAP improves health and lowers healthcare costs, but we need more evidence to make the case that individual managed care organizations and health plans should take action,” said Trooper Sanders, CEO of BDT, in a statement. “That’s why we’re excited to work with the UPMC Center for High-Value Health Care to assess whether it’s both cost-effective and practical for health plans to invest in enrolling their members in SNAP.”

The UPMC Center for High–Value Health Care, which focuses on evidence-based practice and policy change for improving healthcare quality and efficiency, said it would lead a rigorous evaluation to assess the effect of increasing SNAP enrollment among plan members on health care utilization and costs. The study will assess the impact of a targeted outreach strategy using healthcare quality and utilization data from an individual health plan.

The research could generate new evidence to help decision makers at health plans across the country assess and potentially replicate this promising strategy to address the social determinants that affect the quality of life and health of their members.

“UPMC is committed to providing holistic, high-quality, value-driven care for all our members,” said John Lovelace, president of government programs at UPMC Health Plan, in a statement. “This initiative has the potential to help us better understand how we can address a range of patients’ needs that impact their health, especially food insecurity and other social determinants of health.”

Republished from Healthcare Innovation. Read the original article.