Supporting members’ emergency food needs during COVID-19

California resident Janet* knew she faced a greater risk than many when the COVID-19 outbreak began. She is legally blind, over 60 and has medical conditions that may make complications from the virus more likely if she got sick. Her husband is able to run some errands for her but leaving the house may risk exposure.

“My husband goes out, but I’m still a little leery when he comes back,” she said. 

Finding programs that could help the couple with nutritious food was difficult because it’s hard for Janet to use a computer and they are also on a strict, fixed income, which caused added stress.

Janet found help in an unexpected place: her Medicare Advantage health plan.

UnitedHealthcare’s Nutrition Assistance
To support its members in response to the pandemic, UnitedHealthcare developed a process to identify and address individuals’ needs beyond health services, such as nutrition and food assistance. Through direct engagement, care managers are able to pinpoint immediate or long-term needs and connect the member to the appropriate community or emergency food assistance resources. For immediate needs like Janet’s, the team can connect members to meal delivery programs that are able to deliver food within 24 to 48 hours. Delivery of shelf-stable food items through national grocery chains is also available to assist members with longer-term needs. 

So, when Janet called UnitedHealthcare regarding one of her prescriptions, a team member recognized she may need additional support and offered Janet a free shipment of nutritious meals, delivered to her door. 

“There was enough for I think two weeks,” Janet said. “They actually had something for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They were healthy choices, but at the same time, they were very good. It meant a lot because we didn’t have to go out.” 

Coast-to-Coast Support

For UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of New Jersey member Betty*, these food deliveries are a true blessing. She is also vision-impaired, has diabetes and suffered from a stroke last year, so navigating regular grocery runs is highly challenging. 

“I had to try to take a bus one day and the driver, even though I had my mask on, he wouldn’t let me on the bus,” Betty said. “So, I had to take three taxis to get where I had to go, and thank God I had money that day.”

Receiving meals straight to her home helped to eliminate some of that stress, something she said she’s thankful for during a difficult time.

“It’s a good program. I know a lot of people that are blind and live alone,” Betty said. “I’m blessed. It has helped me out very much.”

In only the first few days of the pandemic, this process identified more than 800 members who needed assistance, and the number of members supported continues to grow.

With members feeling fear and uncertainty around the pandemic, a simple food delivery can help make a huge impact. 

“It’s kind of like they are looking out for me without even asking,” Janet said. 

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the members.