A look at Anthem, Kroger's new co-branded Medicare Advantage plans

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield will team up with Kroger to launch co-branded Medicare Advantage plans that aim to address members' social needs.

Eligible members in these plans will receive stipends to purchase healthy food as well as health and wellness items at Kroger stores. Healthy Groceries Cards will offer up to $100 per month for food, and members will receive a quarterly allowance to purchase over-the-counter health items.

In addition, Kroger's 2,200 pharmacies are now in Anthem's preferred network, which should help further reduce out-of-pocket costs, the insurer said.

These plans will be available in select counties in four states for 2022: Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia and Virginia. Though, these markets are "just the beginning" for the program, Elena McFann, president of Medicare at Anthem, told Fierce Healthcare.

Kroger operates nearly 300 stores in these regions, she said.

RELATED: Here's what major national payers are offering in Medicare Advantage for 2022

"What we've heard consistently from our segment is this need for brands to come together in a trusted way to improve their health," McFann said. "It's really about having that sort of community center together."

In addition, eligible members will be able to access the Healthy Pantry benefit, which provides up to 12 monthly sessions with dieticians at Kroger Health, the company's healthcare arm. In these sessions, members can learn more about how to manage their nutrition.

The benefit also includes monthly delivery of pantry staples to support healthy eating, according to Anthem.

The plans are available as part of the current open enrollment period, which began Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7, Anthem said.

“By partnering with Anthem, we are able to offer seniors in our communities access to affordable high quality healthcare services. And through the enhanced nutrition and OTC benefit, we can also provide preventive care using food as medicine,” said Jim Kirby, senior director of business development for Kroger Health, in a statement.

McFann said that food insecurity worsened significantly for seniors amid COVID-19, and that the insurer determined it was a critical issue to tackle coming out of the pandemic. In addition to the Kroger plans, Anthem is now offering a healthy food card as an option that members can select from its Essential Extras program, which is a slate of supplemental MA benefits.

Access to healthy food can be critical to managing or preventing disease, she said.

"We really bridge the gap to help and address food insecurity particularly with some of the country’s most vulnerable populations," McFann said.