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NGA Wants Indies Included in Supplemental Health Food Benefit Programs

Trade org urges White House officials to address issue
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Supplemental health benefits help to address wellness costs, as well as bolstering preventive care and ameliorating chronic illness through nutrition incentives and healthy eating guidance.

The National Grocers Association (NGA), the national trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, has written to a top White House official requesting a meeting of stakeholders to address the exclusion of independent grocers and their shoppers from crucial health benefit programs funded by health insurance plans.

“Private health plans, including Medicare Advantage health plans, are increasingly issuing supplemental health benefit cards that allow policyholders to purchase healthy foods in grocery stores,” noted Stephanie Johnson, VP, government relations at Washington, D.C.-based NGA, in a letter to Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice. “Unfortunately, these restricted-spend cards are preventing these individuals from shopping where they choose and excluding the entire independent grocery segment from program delivery.”

[Read more: "NGA Weighs In on Proposed WIC Food Package Changes"]

Despite the fact that consumer demand in health-and-wellness categories is on the rise, cost and access remain major obstacles for shoppers, especially amid a high-inflation environment. Supplemental health benefits help to address costs, as well as bolstering preventive care and ameliorating chronic illness through nutrition incentives and healthy eating guidance. While these public-private programs have grown, their benefits, which are usually distributed on a card, aren’t currently interoperable between retailers.

“NGA supports these types of programs, as we understand the growing importance of healthy eating behaviors to prevent serious chronic diseases,” wrote Johnson in the letter. “But to date, independents have largely been cut out of these programs and are turning their customers away because they are denied technology needed to process these new benefits.”

In a statement to the press, Johnson added: “The grocery retail industry is rapidly changing, from technology to new store formats and shifting consumer trends, but independent grocers are nimble enough to quickly adjust to such shifts, and with strong ties to their communities, they know what consumers want and need. Excluding independent grocers and their customers from supplemental health benefits harms their ability to compete against big-box stores and it negatively impacts the communities they serve. On behalf of the independent grocery sector, NGA is calling on the White House to convene a meeting of stakeholders to mediate a comprehensive solution between the various public-private partners.”

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