Atlanta City Councilmember Michael Julian Bond – Post 1 at Large Credit: City of Atlanta

Food insecurity is one of the most pressing issues facing older Georgians and individuals with disabilities, particularly among low-income, minority, and traditionally underserved communities. During my time on Atlanta City Council, I have partnered with local and national stakeholders to improve access to nutritious meals, Medicare-eligible residents can use open enrollment as an opportunity to learn more about and enroll in Medicare Advantage.

Since August 2021, I’ve been proud to partner with meal kit company Hello Fresh on expanding their Meals with Meaning program here in Atlanta. Many of the communities served by this program—which provides grab-and-go meals to those in need—lie in food deserts, where access to fresh, healthy food is scarce, and people face a higher risk of malnourishment, illness, or death. 

Now, including local partner Second Helpings Atlanta, these weekly food distribution events are helping address food insecurity while promoting healthier, more nutritious eating habits for local families. As important as I believe these efforts are, however, there is more work to do to ensure all Georgians—including seniors and those living with disabilities—have access to the services and support they need to combat food insecurity in our communities. That is where Medicare Advantage comes into play.

Now covering more than 31 million Americans—or just over half of the entire Medicare population—Medicare Advantage takes a more cost-effective, comprehensive approach to health care than traditional, fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare. Not only does it help improve patient outcomes and reduce costs, but the program also helps strengthen access to nutrition services that seniors and patients with disabilities need to overcome food insecurity. 

Based on current data, Medicare Advantage helps seniors and patients with disabilities save more than $2,400 annually in healthcare costs compared to FFS Medicare beneficiaries. Considering enrollees in Medicare Advantage are more likely to come from low-income households and communities than their FFS counterparts, these savings go a long way in ensuring at-risk Georgians are spending less to meet their basic health care needs so they have more money for necessities like nutritious food.

While saving low-income patients money on medical expenses, Medicare Advantage also provides a broader range of health care, wellness, and supplemental services and offerings that help Georgia seniors and patients with disabilities address food-access concerns. This includes the basics, like more flexible vision, dental, and hearing benefits as well as more innovative offerings, including in-home support, medical appointment transportation, telehealth, fitness programs, and, importantly, meal delivery services that provide patients with easier, more efficient access to healthier food options.

Medicare Advantage has been growing by leaps and bounds over the years for good reason—it is working as intended to help expand access to vital health care, wellness, and nutritional services that improve the lives of patients and strengthen the health of entire communities. It should not come as any surprise that the program enjoys a 95% satisfaction rate among its beneficiaries.

As the my colleagues and I on the Atlanta City Council work to address food insecurity in the neighborhoods throughout the City of Atlanta, especially those in underserved communities, Medicare Advantage will continue to play a vital role in expanding access, reducing costs, and addressing the health care and food-access needs in underserved communities nationwide. With Medicare’s open enrollment period running until December 7, those Georgians who can enroll in this vital, innovative program should take a closer look at the myriad benefits of doing so.

Michael Julian Bond represents more than 450,000 local residents, since his election to the Atlanta City Council Post 1 At-Large seat in November of 2009. He is a member of the Committee on Council and the Community Development/Human Resources and Public Safety committees. The views and opinions expressed are entirely his own.