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Why Health Plans Should Use Nutrition Programs to Engage Members

Health plans are always looking for new ways to engage with their members. Whether it’s to get members to complete Health Risk Assessments (HRAs) or to promote long-term healthy behaviors, finding effective outreach methods is critical. But, as most Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) know, this is easier said than done.

In fact, member engagement in the healthcare industry is down. Despite the heightened awareness of health during the past two years, a recent study by US Medicare Advantage found that “members are not actively engaged in their health in 2022 as they have been in previous years.” Furthermore, only 55% of Medicare members are “actively involved” in managing their care.

Plans face an engagement gap, but the solution for this could come from an unexpected source: nutrition plans.

We recently sat down with Ramon Llamas, founder of Medically Tailored Meals, to gain insights into the setup and importance of nutrition programs and how they can play a role in member engagement and promoting long-term healthy behaviors.

Promote Healthy Behaviors

There are several different types of nutrition programs that health plans can look to implement. These can include:

  • Meals for food insecurity: supportive food and nutrition services to augment available diets.
  • Meals for post-discharge: individuals recently discharged may require special nutrition packages to support their recovery.
  • Meals for chronic conditions: nutrition is linked to several chronic conditions, and improving access to better food could help treat these.

“At Medically Tailored Meals, there are three conditions that we are focused on: congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease, and unmanaged diabetes,” says Ramon. “For all three of these conditions, there’s a high re-admission rate. We’ve found specific studies that prove we can reduce re-admissions and promote healthy behavior by providing access to better nutrition.”

Once members no longer have to live with fears about food insecurity or feeling alone in managing chronic conditions, their healthy behaviors increase over time. But having access to these programs in the first place is often the first hurdle. MCOs can overcome these obstacles by investing in these programs and providing avenues for healthy behavior improvement.

Reduce Costs

“From a healthcare payer standpoint, it’s clear that these programs are a bit more expensive than other engagement initiatives to implement,” continued Ramon, “But I think we need to look at it as an investment toward the health of these individuals. This type of preventative care can help reduce costs down the road.”

While the cost to implement a nutrition program varies among the region and number of members served, the studies about long-term cost savings are promising. In a Journal of Primary Care & Community Health study, “healthcare costs were reduced by over $10,000 per month in the three months [that members started] receiving medically tailored meals.” While more research is needed to identify the causal link between these programs and the outcomes, it provides positive indicators for health plans to move in this direction.  

Improve Member Engagement

The past few years have changed how many interact with their health care providers and plans. Many health plans turned toward digital solutions to continue to engage their members. Solutions like Sagitec’s HealConnect can help payers consolidate member engagement activities and focus on outreach methods that provide better results, such as text messaging rather than phone calls. Implementing a nutritional program is another way for plans to continue to engage with their members. It provides another reason for outreach and communication and can be an effective strategy to bolster Medicare member engagement.


As new technologies develop and member communication preferences change, experiment with different engagement methods. Sagitec recently helped a large Medicaid organization double its completion rates by turning to a digital HRA solution using HealConnect. To learn more about these results, click the link below to download our free white paper.


See How HealConnect Boosted Completion Rates 

Topics: HealConnect Medicaid