Did you ever hear a doctor say, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? When we go to the doctor, we often get prescribed medications to treat our illness or ailment, but we don’t get prescribed anything until we are already sick and at the doctor’s office. Instead of waiting to be sick to get medication, researchers are looking into programs that will allow doctors to prescribe healthy diets to their patients, with medical insurance coverage. If any of these programs or policies come to fruition, this would become an effective way to help patients lead a healthier lifestyle.
According to this model published in PLOS, researchers believe that covering healthy fruits, vegetables and other foods under Medicare and Medicaid could prevent cardiovascular-related cases and even deaths. If this is the case, it can prevent thousands of people from developing diabetes and lower the cost of healthcare. “Food as medicine” doesn’t mean that food should solely be relied on to treat patients, but maintaining a healthy diet certainly can’t hurt when coping with a disease. On the contrary – maintaining a poor diet is a leading risk factor of cardiovascular disease.
Possible effects on policy
Researchers observed that Medicaid and Medicare would cover approximately 30 percent of the prices of fruits and vegetables. 30 percent of healthy foods, like whole grains, seafood, fruits and vegetables, would also be covered by medical insurance. The model involved experts looking into socioeconomic demographics as well as the common risk factors of people under Medicare and Medicaid.
Research also found that having fruits and vegetables covered under Medicare or Medicaid would prevent approximately 1.93 million cases of cardiovascular-related cases, including diabetes and heart attacks. In a program that subsidizes fruits and vegetables, it could also save close to $40 billion in healthcare. And with other foods, this number climbs to over $100 billion in costs. Studies are underway or currently being planned. One $6 million study in California is giving patients prescribed meals to help their conditions. In the 2018 Farm Bill, legislators have included $25 million to fund more studies on healthy food prescriptions.
These food prescription programs in Medicare and Medicaid are meant to help lower healthcare costs overall for patients. Not only that, these programs are crafted to help prevent unexpected healthcare problems and costs from appearing in the first place. It’s certainly a lot better than spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on numerous doctor appointments and medications.