The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School and Feeding America highlight the nuts and bolts of addressing patients’ food-related needs.
A growing number of health care systems are partnering with food banks, food pantries, and other community-based organizations, acknowledging the major role that food plays in impacting health outcomes. Yet, laws designed to protect patients in traditional medical settings have emerged as barriers to these innovative community-clinical partnerships. A new report by the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School’s (CHLPI’s) Health Law Lab and Feeding America addresses these legal barriers, making community-clinical partnerships more feasible than ever.
The report, Food Banks as Partners in Health Promotion: Navigating Patient Inducement Laws, focuses on the legal landscape facing health care organizations that are providing food-related supports for free or at discounted pricing. Federal laws restrict the circumstances under which health care providers can offer free or discounted items or services to a federal health care program beneficiary (e.g., a person enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid). Fortunately, as the report highlights, there are nuances in these laws that enable health care providers to respond to the food and nutrition needs of patients.
“There is a growing call for health care providers to partner with food banks and other food-related services to address food insecurity as a critical health risk. However, health care providers are weary of offering free or discounted food to their patients because of inducement laws,” said Rachel Landauer, a Clinical Instructor for CHLPI. “Through our analysis, we found a number of strategies for forging successful partnerships that both comply with the law and support better health outcomes for patients.”
“Food insecurity and lack of health care both increase risk of becoming ill. Feeding America believes that nutrition is a critical component of maintaining one’s health,” said Dr. Hilary Seligman, Senior Medical Advisor at Feeding America. “Nearly half of all food banks are engaging with health care partners to support access to healthy food. This report is a step forward in allowing and encouraging partnerships that create a direct, positive impact for patients experiencing food insecurity.”
CHLPI and Feeding America’s approach to inducement laws builds on previous partnership strategies that the team published on navigating HIPAA. The two resources provide critical analyses of health care fraud and abuse laws, promoting opportunities to scale and sustain coordinated care.