Evidence Review

The Evolution and Scope of Medicaid Section 1115 Demonstrations to Address Nutrition

Poor nutrition and food insecurity are drivers of poor health, diet-related diseases, and health disparities in the US. State Medicaid Section 1115 demonstration waivers offer opportunities to pilot food-based initiatives to address health outcomes and disparities. Several states are now leveraging 1115 demonstrations, but the scope and types of utilization remain undefined. To fill this gap, researchers conducted a systematic analysis of state Medicaid Section 1115 applications and approvals available on Medicaid.gov through July 1, 2023. They found that 19 approved and pending 1115 waivers address nutrition, with 11 submitted or approved since 2021. Fifteen states provide or propose to provide screening for food insecurity, referral to food security programs, and/or reporting on food security as an evaluation metric. Thirteen provide or propose to provide coverage of nutrition education services. Ten provide or propose to provide direct intervention with healthy food. The primary target populations of these demonstrations are individuals with chronic diet-sensitive conditions, mental health or substance use disorders, and/or who are pregnant or postpartum. Since 2021, state utilization of Medicaid 1115 demonstrations to address nutrition has accelerated in pace, scope, and population coverage. These findings and trends have major implications for addressing diet-related health and health equity in the United States.