Washington D.C. – The National Grocers Association (NGA), the national trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, sent a letter to White House officials asking for a convening of stakeholders to address the growing problem of the exclusion of independent grocers and their customers from important health benefit programs funded by health insurance plans.
The letter states, “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. Unfortunately, these restricted-spend cards are preventing these individuals from shopping where they choose and excluding the entire independent grocery segment from program delivery.”
Although consumer demand in health and wellness categories continues to boom, barriers such as cost and access pose significant challenges for shoppers, especially in the current inflationary environment. Supplemental health benefits are a solution to addressing costs, as well as bolstering preventive care and addressing chronic illness through nutrition incentives and healthy eating guidance. Despite the growth in these public-private programs, the benefits offered, which are typically distributed on a card, are not 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. 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,” said the letter.
“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,” said NGA Vice President of Government Relations Stephanie Johnson.
Additional Background Materials
To read the full letter, click here.
NGA is the national trade association representing the retail and wholesale community grocers that comprise the independent sector of the food distribution industry. An independent retailer is a privately owned or controlled food retail company operating a variety of formats. The independent grocery sector is accountable for about 1.2 percent of the nation’s overall economy and is responsible for generating more than $250 billion in sales, 1.1 million jobs, $39 billion in wages and $36 billion in taxes. NGA members include retail and wholesale grocers located in every congressional district across the country, as well as state grocers’ associations, manufacturers and service suppliers. For more information about NGA, visit www.nationalgrocers.org.