New Program Offers Meals for Those Recovering from Congestive Heart Failure

April 7, 2019 GMT

LOWELL -- People struggling after hospitalization for congestive heart failure should never have to worry about their next meal, and thanks to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts they might not have to.

Congestive heart failure (CHF) sends around 875,000 Americans a year to the hospital, more than all forms of cancer combined, and it is the cause of 11 million physician visits each year, according to Emory Healthcare. After hospitalization due to CHF, seniors in particular are at a higher health risk since treatment and recovery requires strict attention to nutrition and health that some may not be able to monitor on their own.

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That’s where meal delivery comes in. Programs such as Meals on Wheels provide meals to seniors unable to purchase food on their own. But there was no such initiative to help people suffering from CHF in Massachusetts.

To help combat that, last month, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts rolled out a program in collaboration with Community Servings to provide meals to Medicare Advantage members recovering from recent hospital stays for CHF. There are currently 11 participants in the program.

Blue Cross Blue Shield members across 21 different communities, including Lowell, who are socially isolated, food insecure or otherwise unable to get their own food are eligible to receive up to 10 free heart-healthy meals a week for periods up to two months or longer. Participants will also benefit from visits from a registered dietitian and a Blue Cross nurse case manager.

Ken Arruda, the vice president of Medicare Markets at Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts, said that a meal-delivery program had been in the inception stage for many years. Once they were given an opportunity to implement it, they tapped Community Servings, a nonprofit organization that provides meal delivery to those suffering with chronic illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, cancer and kidney disease.

“We realized that one of the unmet needs (for people with CHF) is around nutrition,” said Arruda. “Nutrition plays an important role, particularly when you’re recovering from... a possible stay... and you’re transitioning back to home.”

Participants are selected for the program according to their physical needs and accommodations. Upon discharge from the hospital due to CHF, patients are evaluated by Blue Cross Blue Shield to see if they require services, and the program adjusts care based on their needs. Factors for selection include living alone, being food insecure or receiving caregiving services.