Washington, D.C. – The National Grocers Association (NGA), the national trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, hosted an inaugural meeting on Thursday, June 8, to discuss solutions for providing access to healthy benefit cards in high-need communities being served by independent grocers.
NGA convened 30 stakeholders from across the healthy benefit card industry, including health insurance companies, payment networks, point-of-sale system providers and independent community grocers.
Healthy benefit programs, which have grown exponentially in recent years, provide eligible customers with a financial boost to help them pay for essential daily needs, including food, medicine and other over-the-counter products. Benefits are administered as cards provided by payment networks who contract with health insurance companies. To receive a healthy benefit card, a customer must be enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan that offers the benefit.
While these cards provide a valuable benefit to Americans across the nation, only a handful of retailers are currently set up to accept these cards as payment.
NGA spearheaded this meeting to discuss the issue, explore possible solutions and urge cooperation among the groups to reach a resolution by the end of the third quarter of this year.
“Healthy Benefit Card programs underscore the integral role that food plays in overall health. By combining affordability, accessibility, and nutritional support, independent grocers can empower individuals to make informed choices about their health and well-being. We appreciate the opportunity to convene these important stakeholders and look forward to building consensus around ways in which we can achieve broad access for independent grocers and their customers,” said Stephanie Johnson, NGA vice president of government relations.
Earlier this year, NGA penned an open letter, signed by 1,695 independent grocers, to key healthy benefit card stakeholders, urging that the cards be accepted by a broader variety of retailers.
The letter reads, in part, “Millions of Americans who rely on independent grocers, many of whom are in rural and low-income areas, find themselves struggling to use a benefit that that could change their lives for the better. Many of those same customers are the same people who would benefit most from these Healthy Benefit Cards. Some don’t have the luxury of traveling to the big stores that accept these cards because they’re too far away, and the benefit is wasted. We are hearing daily from independent grocers who are forced to turn away loyal customers of many years with full carts left at the register because they cannot accept these restricted-spend cards.”
The full letter can be viewed here.