In 2002, when the United States Congress passed the Benefits Improvements and Protection Act, most dietitians were still trying to figure out Medicare Part A from Medicare Part B. However a very astute and savvy area nutrition manager saw the big picture and pitched a new idea. Noralyn Wilson, RD knew that Sodexo, as the largest employer of dietitians, had a responsibility and an opportunity to act on the new legislation. Ten years later her idea is not only thriving but has emerged as an industry leader.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics worked tirelessly in the late 90’s, collecting the evidence and demonstrating to Congress that Registered Dietitians (RDs) and medical nutrition therapy (MNT) can make a difference. Their hard work paid off in 2002 when the Medical Nutrition Therapy legislation was written and expanded Medicare Part B coverage to include nutrition counseling to Part B beneficiaries with diabetes or kidney disease. Medicare, the biggest and most influential insurer in the land, recognized the work of Registered Dietitians in disease management and began reimbursing for nutrition counseling. As things go, this was the best thing to happen in nutrition therapy since the food model.
Immediately after the new legislation was written Sodexo dedicated resources to the development of programs to assist our clients and dietitians in addressing the new Medicare benefit. Not only were there many new rules and regulations to follow, the risk of non-compliance had severe consequences.
I’ve been managing the Sodexo Medicare MNT programs for the past 10 (gulp) years. During that time the Medicare MNT benefit has evolved and today it continues to provide Medicare beneficiaries with outstanding nutrition service. Sodexo’s MNT programs are in over 160 hospitals in 29 states with hundreds of Sodexo and client dietitians enrolled as Medicare providers. Sodexo itself is enrolled with 14 different Medicare carriers. Over 15,000 individuals have received MNT from our program sites. In 2011, Sodexo MNT was expanded to Senior Living when our first site in Tacoma, WA was added.
Sodexo’s MNT programs are dedicated to not only ensuring Medicare compliance but also assisting our clients and dietitians in developing outpatient nutrition but more importantly helping the public manage their chronic disease, their quality of life and their wellness. Registered Dietitians are uniquely trained in deciphering medical science and complex nutrition research and delivering it to the people. We are proud to report that our national clinical MNT outcomes are statistically significant for weight loss, a decrease in BMI and a decrease in hemoglobin a1c, a blood value that indicates the severity of diabetes.
Over the past 10 years, our Sodexo MNT programs have fully embraced Noralyn’s original vision, maximized the Medicare MNT benefit for our patients and allowed Sodexo to emerge as a leader in comprehensive nutrition services. Congratulations to our Registered Dietitians and MNT programs who work so hard providing Quality of Daily Life Services.
Susan Ramsey, MS RD CDE LDN, is a Senior Manager for Medical Nutrition Therapy in Yardley, Pennsylvania.