LEAP Accepts 'Healthy Benefits' Cards at Mobile Market Stops

LEAP can now accept “Healthy Benefits” or “S3” debit cards issued by insurance providers as payment for food on its mobile market, making it one of the first small-scale retailers to participate in Virginia – or nationwide.

Dual-enrolled Medicaid/Medicare recipients are issued "healthy benefits" debit cards by their insurance companies. The electronically loaded funds can be spent on medications, health products, utility payments, and food. In 2021, LEAP spoke with its health insurance partners to see if and how its mobile market could accept the healthy benefits cards. LEAP chose its mobile market as the outlet to accept health insurance benefits because the mobile market was already serving seniors and had the infrastructure in place to swipe debit cards.

Typically, customers spend their benefit card funds at national chains such as Wal-mart, CVS, or Kroger. Having an option where customers can purchase local food with their insurance benefits is rare – and an important way to support local farmers and food system resiliency with Medicaid and Medicare dollars. In some states, farmers market associations are working with insurance companies to allow use of the benefits at farmers markets, but LEAP is one of the only mobile markets in the US to accept insurance company debit cards.

“The LEAP Mobile Market is a pilot and hopefully a model for how mobile markets and other community-based retailers can accept healthy benefit cards, provide more food options for Medicaid/Medicare participants, and multiply the economic impact of federal food dollars in community food systems,” says LEAP’s Executive Director Maureen McNamara Best.

For more information about LEAP's work to expand access to local food for seniors and other people who are food insecure, email info@leapforlocalfood.org.

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