Albertsons Cos. has entered new partnerships to help expand consumers’ access to nutritious food and medications.
The Boise, Idaho-based food and drug retailer on Friday said it’s working with financial services technology provider FIS—which represents supplemental health benefits administrators like Fresh Connect, Pay Forward and WEX—to use its payment platform and with benefits card provider Soda Health, which tailors health benefits to individual needs.
Through the partnerships, consumers using FIS and Soda Health-integrated benefit cards can now buy eligible food and health products at supermarkets such as Albertsons, Safeway, Jewel-Osco, Vons, Shaw’s, Tom Thumb and Acme, Albertsons noted.
“Expanding our benefit card partnerships are essential in ensuring that our customers have access to the broadest selection of nutritious food, supplements and OTC medicine that improve their health and well-being,” Omer Gajial, executive vice president of pharmacy and health at Albertsons Cos., said in a statement.
Health benefit cards are prepaid debit cards—funded by Medicare Advantage plans, employers, health care providers or local governments—and can be used to make purchases on eligible over-the-counter medicine and wellness care products, plus healthful foods, whole grains, fish and poultry, Albertsons noted. Customers eligible for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program also can use their health benefit cards in tandem with their EBT account.
“We are striving to be more than just a neighborhood grocery store,” Gajial added. “We want to build a deeper connection with our customers, support them in their wellness journey and address hunger in our most vulnerable communities.”
Albertsons said continues to partner with benefit card providers Solutran (S3), InComm (OTC Network) and Speak (formerly Speak Retail Group). Most national health insurance plans (such as Aetna, Humana, United Healthcare and Centene) and many regional plans (including Blue Cross Blue Shield and Cigna) offer these benefits. The grocer added that customers can check with their payment provider for a full list of benefit-eligible items.
Overall, Albertsons Cos. operates 2,270 food and drug stores and 1,720 pharmacies in 34 states and the District of Columbia under 24 banners, including Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw's, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen, Carrs, Kings Food Markets and Balducci's Food Lovers Market.
More access to food and health benefits will be key for a rising number of Americans. At the start of this month, pandemic-extended benefits under SNAP ended nationwide, meaning more people will be hard-pressed in affording food, as SNAP recipients account for nearly a quarter of total U.S. spending on consumer packaged goods. Similarly, as of April 1, expanded Medicaid benefits during the pandemic also will lapse, leading to millions of Americans losing health care coverage.