When the coronavirus pandemic first hit the United States, one health insurance company called up its customers with a question: Do you have enough to eat? "We’ve seen time and again the lack of good and nutritional food causes members to get readmitted [to hospitals]," Oscar Health executive Ananth Lalithakumar explained. As the pandemic sends millions of Americans to food banks or neighborhood pantries, insurers and bill payers have been setting up programs to help their members buy healthy food, treating food as a form of medicine that can help reduce blood sugar and blood pressure and avoid expensive stays in the hospital. "People are finally getting comfortable with the idea that everybody saves money when you prevent certain things from happening or somebody’s condition from worsening,” said Andrew Shea, a senior vice president with the online insurance broker eHealth. In 2019, a study of Massachusetts residents with similar medical conditions found that those who received meals tailored to their condition had fewer hospital admissions and generated less healthcare spending than those who did not. The Medicare Advantage specialist Humana started giving some customers with low incomes debit cards ranging from $25 to $50 to help them purchase healthy food. Later this month, the insurer will also begin testing meal deliveries.

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