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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Medi-Cal soon to expand ‘Food Prescription’ program statewide in California

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The federal health insurance program for low-income individuals, Medi-Cal (Medicaid), will soon be able to assist patients in purchasing groceries.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced on February 12 that it has requested the state of California to expand its “food prescription” program, which provides grocery assistance to Medicaid recipients, statewide.

In addition to California, North Carolina and Massachusetts have submitted applications to expand the program, according to CMS.

California piloted the program last year in several areas with high concentrations of low-income residents, including Los Angeles and Alameda. The response was so positive that the state has asked the federal government for approval to expand the program statewide.



The food prescription program is a healthcare initiative that prescribes the foods and servings needed by people with heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, including vegetables and fruits. It is funded through the California Medi-Cal program (CalAIM).

Patients enrolled in the program receive free home delivery of a box of nutritious groceries, including fruits, vegetables, chicken breasts, quinoa, and more, every two weeks for up to 12 weeks from a food bank. Patients who are unable to access delivered groceries will receive a monthly stipend to help pay for them.

Some recipients will also receive housing assistance. However, recipients must have a medical condition that requires them to be outpatient for an extended period of time, and rent assistance is available for up to six months.

California expects to expand the program to eligible Medi-Cal recipients as early as the second half of this year, subject to federal approval.

About 63,000 people currently receive food and rent assistance through the food prescription program, according to the California Department of Health Care Services.

The program, which was first introduced in 2021 under the Joe Biden administration, is currently in place in Arizona, Arkansas, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington. Each state is using up to 3% of its federally subsidized Medicaid budget for the “food prescription” program.

Since taking office, President Biden has significantly increased federal funding to support low-income families in order to fulfill his promise to expand healthcare and Social Security benefits at the federal level.

In addition to Medi-Cal, Medicare Advantage plan members can also receive a separate grocery stipend or have food delivered, according to the Commonwealth Fund for Healthcare Research. Moreover, the US Department of Agriculture’s food stamp program (known as CalFresh in California) also assists in paying for groceries.

BY NICOLE CHANG, JUNHAN PARK    [chang.nicole@koreadaily.com]