The legislation would expand Medicare Part B coverage of outpatient medical nutrition therapy services, including counselling provided by registered dietitian nutritionists to help prevent, delay and manage diet-related medical conditions, to prediabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, malnutrition, eating disorders, cancer, HIV/AIDS, gastrointestinal diseases like Celiac, and heart disease.
Currently, Medicare Part B only covers outpatient MNT for diabetes, renal disease and post-kidney transplant, which expert national organizations argue is a disservice to patients and can compound unnecessary health care costs.
The MNT Act was previously introduced in 2020 and 2021, but did not receive a vote.
The Celiac Disease Foundation, which is among 40 national groups that support the legislation, explained in a statement, “our patient and caregiver community consistently share how difficult it is to adopt and follow a gluten-free diet in a food ecosystem that includes gluten in more than 80% of its products – while also maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. Healthcare providers strongly recommend counselling by dietitians skilled in celiac disease and research shows that counselling from a registered dietitian or other nutrition professional is essential for the well-being of our community.”
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics add in a statement that the legislation, if passed, would have a “rippling effect on the health of Americans across the country, especially among people from racial and ethnic minority populations.”
The legislation also could boost sales of medically tailored food and beverages as well as better-for-you products, including those designed to support specific health outcomes or which have qualified health claims for covered conditions.
This is especially true in retail stores that have registered dietitian nutritionists on staff – a growing trend in recent years, notes FMI – The Food Industry Association.
“Food retailers are uniquely positioned to provide nutrition counselling services to customers in the same location that they purchase their groceries and medications, making the grocery store a destination for health and well-being,” FMI Senior Director, Health and Well-being Krystal Register said in a statement.
[Editor’s note: Interested in learning more about food as medicine? Join Foodnavigator-USA today (Nov. 15) for the second day of our Futureproofing the Food System virtual summit, which explores food as medicine. Registration is free and easy. The event will also be available on demand to registered attendees.]