Stamp of disapproval

Doctors say cutting food stamps could backfire.
Associated Press
Jan 9, 2014

Doctors are warning that if Congress cuts food stamps, the federal government could be socked with bigger health bills. Maybe not immediately, they say, but over time if the poor wind up in doctors' offices or hospitals as a result.

Among the health risks of hunger are spiked rates of diabetes and developmental problems for young children down the road.

The doctors' lobbying effort comes as Congress is working on a compromise farm bill that's certain to include food stamp cuts. Republicans want heftier reductions than do Democrats in yet another partisan battle over the government's role in helping poor Americans.

Food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, feed 1 in 7 Americans and cost almost $80 billion a year, twice what it cost five years ago. Conservatives say the program spiraled out of control as the economy struggled and the costs are not sustainable. They say the neediest people will not go hungry.

The health and financial risks of hunger have not played a major role in the debate. But the medical community says cutting food aid could backfire through higher Medicaid and Medicare costs.

"If you're interested in saving health care costs, the dumbest thing you can do is cut nutrition," said Dr. Deborah Frank of Boston Medical Center, who founded the Children's HealthWatch pediatric research institute.

"People don't make the hunger-health connection."

A study published this week helps illustrate that link. Food banks report longer lines at the end of the month as families exhaust their grocery budgets, and California researchers found that more poor people with a dangerous diabetes complication are hospitalized then, too.

The researchers analyzed eight years of California hospital records to find cases of hypoglycemia, when blood sugar plummets, and link them to patients' ZIP codes.

Among patients from low-income neighborhoods, hospitalizations were 27 percent higher in the last week of the month compared with the first, when most states send out government checks and food stamps, said lead researcher Dr. Hilary Seligman of the University of California, San Francisco. But hospitalizations didn't increase among diabetics from higher-income areas, she reported Tuesday in the journal Health Affairs.

Seligman couldn't prove that running low on food was to blame. But she called it the most logical culprit and said the cost of treating hypoglycemia even without a hospitalization could provide months of food stamp benefits.

"The cost trade-offs are sort of ridiculous," Seligman said.

She is working on a project with Feeding America, a network of food banks, to try to improve health by providing extra, diabetes-appropriate foods, including fresh produce and whole-grain cereals and pastas, for diabetics at a few food banks in California, Texas and Ohio.

Last year, research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts estimated that a cut of $2 billion a year in food stamps could trigger in an increase of $15 billion in medical costs for diabetes over the next decade.

Other research shows children from food-insecure families are 30 percent more likely to have been hospitalized for a range of illnesses. But after a temporary boost in benefits from the 2009 economic stimulus, children whose families used food stamps were significantly more likely to be well than kids in low-income families that didn't participate, Children's HealthWatch found. About half of food stamp recipients are children, and 10 percent are elderly.

How much would be cut from the food-stamp program ranges from $400 million a year in a Senate-passed farm bill to $4 billion a year in the House version. Congressional negotiators now are eyeing about $800 million a year in cuts.

That would be on top of cuts in November, when that 2009 temporary benefit expired. According to the Agriculture Department, a family of four receiving food stamps is now getting $36 less a month. The average household benefit is around $270.

Since then, food banks are reporting more demand because people's food stamps aren't stretching as far, said Maura Daly of Feeding America.

Conservatives pushing the cuts say they want to target benefits to the neediest people, arguing that those who are truly hungry should have no problem getting assistance if they apply.

The final bill will most likely crack down on states that give recipients $1 in heating assistance in order to trigger higher food stamp benefits, a change that wouldn't take people completely off the rolls.

The bill will also likely add some money for food banks and test new work requirements for recipients in a few states, a priority for many Republicans.

"While this program is an important part of our safety net, our overriding goal should be to help our citizens with the education and skills they need to get back on their feet so that they can provide for themselves and their families," said Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., when the farm bill was on the House floor last summer.

Democrats and anti-hunger groups opposing the reductions have said that cutting food stamps could worsen health and raise health costs for the poorest.

"Food is medicine," says Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, who has led the Democrats' defense of the food stamp program. "Critics focus almost exclusively on how much we spend, and I wish they understood that if we did this better, we could save a lot more money in health care costs."

Dr. Thomas McInerny, past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said too often, poor families buy cheap, high-calorie junk food because it's filling, but it lacks nutrients needed for proper child development. The two main consequences are later-in-life diabetes, and iron deficiency that, especially in the first three years of life, can damage a developing brain so that children have trouble learning in school, he said.

"The children may not look malnourished the way children in Third World countries look," he said, "but they are malnourished."

 

Comments

mimi's word

Isn't it supposed to be an added supplement to help with groceries? not your only source for groceries? You will get no sympathy from me. I worked 3 jobs at 1 time at minimum wage and 1 was as a closer at BK so I could take all the left overs that we didnt sell and that was my only source of food since I had so many bills that I couldn't make it. No one was handing me money and I also took prevention so from I didnt have any kids I could NOT afford...This is not the land of the free and the home of the brave anymore...it is the land of GREED and the home of the I want I will have at any cost to anyone...

happyfeet64

So, you admit that you were walking out the back door with food that was marked on the sheet as waste and you are bitching about what food stamp recipients buy and how you were working 3 jobs, etc.? Sweetie, I've been a manager at numerous fast food places and as per corporate policy,if I would have caught you,I would have fired you in an instant,that is stealing. Yet,you are trying to get sympathy because you were working 3 jobs with nothing to eat? Where the hellD did your money go? Medical expenses? Allowable deductions with food stamps,utilities ort rent costs? Allowable deductions-sounds to me you're just mad cuz for whatever reason you couldn't be approved.Whatever,I've been on just about every links public assistance program,I utilized the services I bearded to get back on my feet,get an education and support my children and to be honest,if I wanted to buy ice cream or a candy bar or anything else,I did. If an alcoholic or a person on disability for a heart condition or diabetes or whatever want to purchase something detrimental to they their health,why is it your business? If you your generic answer is because you are paying for it,then get guess what,you weren't. So I worked from the time I was 14 until the age of 39,which our is when I started receiving assistance,I paid for my stuff,not you.

Simple Enough II

You are right, it isn't our business., but it is our business when we have to borrow money to support the government and all those programs, because someone has to pay that back. How did you earn those services, any tax dollars you paid into the black hole of our government are long gone?

coasterfan

OK, it's time to take Phroggy, Rbenn, Mikesee and Bottom Line to school. Here's some facts about food stamps:

#1: 76% of food stamp recipients are children, the elderly or the disabled.
#2: The majority of food stamp recipients are White.
#3: Food stamps have the lowest fraud rate of any federal gov't program.
#4: Every dollar spent on food stamps returns $2 to our economy.
#5: No one in America should go hungry - EVER.

rbenn

what Im trying to say is, if you receive government assistance a requirement should be (for those physically able) some kind of work such as 20 hours a week or some sort of community service. I really dont think thats too much to ask. I bet you a lot of the complaining would go away if people were at least doing something to earn said benefits. Think about it, when you collect unemployment you have to show you looked for work. SO whats wrong with the same kinda accountability with welfare and foodstamps?

Bluto

And what would that cost taxpayers ? A whole new division of welfare to oversee implementation of your idea . More money down the drain , and more big government .That' s mighty Liberal of you ; ))))

rbenn

Im far from liberal, but people should not just sit on their fat a$$ and collect money for nothing. And how does someone getting work cost the taxpayer? It pays into the system duh

Contango

Re: "20 hours a week or some sort of community service."

IMO, the public sector unions will find this objectionable, i.e. taking jobs away from them.

It also smacks of some kind of progressive-minded publicly funded work program, e.g. WPA.

"Public assistance" used to be administrated on the local community level, until the big govt. politicos & bureaucrats federalized it in order to help buy votes.

There's only financial incentive to increase the number of recipients, not to reduce them.

Stop It

Think TVA....

mimi's word

I agree if you are only able to work 20 hours a week and have trouble making it I think they should be paid exactly what they make in a check dollar for dollar. Maybe people would find a way to work more than the 20 hours. Give out what you put in. It is the people that are abusing that makes people angry...a lady was on assistance because she wanted to be a stay at home mom...that is a priveledge not a right. I also see no where in the bill of rights where food, money, or not feeling bad is a right.

Bluto

What about Life , Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness . I think food , money and not feeling bad would fit into those criteria .

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

So we are up to $2 now for every dollar spent? Senator Reid will be ecstatic. Please explain this. I promise I am good at math. I am genuinely curious how one becomes two magically. Start with where the money comes from first. We're doing this beginning to end. Soup to nuts, to use food terms.

Contango

Re: "Every dollar spent on food stamps returns $2 to our economy."

A progressive fiction. It would imply the fantasy of 'something' for nothing.

GDP = C + I + G + ( X - M )

The govt. (G) can't spend a dollar that goes to consumption (C) that it doesn't take from somewhere else.

Keynes viewed govt. pump priming as temporary, NOT as a magical panacea for permanent prosperity.

Contango

Re: "#3: Food stamps have the lowest fraud rate of any federal gov't program."

According to whom?

"Lowest fraud rate"?

It's the freshest turd in your progressive toilet?

coasterfan

According to an article by Paul Krugman, a Nobel-prize winning economist, who has studied the issue far longer than you or I.

Unless you have specific - unbiased - information to the contrary, I'm going to go with what an expert has to say on the situation.

Contango

Re: "According to an article by Paul Krugman,"

Got a link?

Still begs the question regarding the phrase: "lowest fraud rate."

How many billions of dollars is that?

What's the GAO have to say about it?

Contango

Re: "Nobel-prize winning economist,"

His paper which merited him the prize was wholly unrelated to this issue.

So you'd consult Miss America regarding clothing styles and consider her to be the last word regarding fashion?

Per usual, you're tightly wrapped in a fallacy.

BTW: H*ll, even the "experts" didn't see the '07-'08 financial crisis coming.

Where was the omniscient Mr. Krugman with his bullhorn?

Donegan

Paul Krugman in 2002: "Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble."
This is why everyone does not listen to progressives for economic views, All they do is lurch from one crises to another without ever fixing anything. If he is your expert I suggest you find another one.

Contango

Meanwhile many believe that the next credit crisis will be one of sovereign debt due to the actions of the Fed. Resv.

And IMO, it ain't too far away, maybe 2015.

"Buffett Calls Fed History’s Greatest Hedge Fund"

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/20...

Hedge funds NEVER blow up do they? :)

Donegan

The last one out catches the tab as they say. Too bad the left thinks the party will last forever.

mikesee

Coaster don't forget this one. Standing in line at the gas station the other day a person purchased 1 bag of chips, 3 candy bars and 2 2-liters of Pepsi with their SNAP card. They then purchased a lottery ticket and a pack of cigs with cash. Thats my problem!

My problem with SNAP is not necessarily the amount of people on it but the items they are entitled to buy. If they are legit then ok. By allowing them to purchase such foods just increase's their chances of having medical condiditons related to eating so much junk food. Which of course they don't care about their health conditions because the taxpayer picks up the tab for that as well.

BTW I read recently in the paper that there was a ring of SNAP receivers busted for selling their benefits to other not entitled. This was in the Tiffin area.

coasterfan

Donutguy: I do agree that only certain foods should be purchased with food stamps. However, if you agree that we should allow the government that amount of intrusion/control, congrats: you're a Democrat, and don't even realize it. :)

Pterocarya frax...

Oh snap!

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Your continued pride in forcing people to do things isn't something to smile about, in my opinion. If that's a case you should grin widely that prisoners are forced to sleep in a cot at the whim of someone, somewhere.

However your point isn't scored so easily as there is a difference between those who are already wards of the state being tossed around by governmental tempests as opposed to imposing government on people who already take care of themselves to have them conform to people who don't. I don't need you or an unknowable, unelected entity hundreds of miles away telling me what to buy. But, for someone on a program, it seems they do and are left flapping in the winds of bureaucracy since their lives (hopefully temporarily) are conceded for someone else to run.

So much like you and donutshopguy, I agree that the scope of what can be purchased should be limited because these are people who need (again, if only temporarily) someone else to help bring their lives into check. But for me? Kindly keep your party's hands out of my shopping cart. I am responsible for my behavior, thank you. The day I am not you can - luckily - force your will on my diet as I'll be in jail or a ward of the state in some other way.

Like the argument I made before with prisoners, are they being responsible citizens by putting themselves in jail per the law after breaking it? Or are they simply forced to comply with the government's wishes? Responsibility isn't forced, coerced, or imposed. It must be generated from within.

coasterfan

My point was that conservatives always rail about "government intrusion into our personal lives", yet they often are the MOST intrusive. Vaginal probes anyone? They continue to discuss and attempt to legislate many things, abortion, gay rights, contraception - issues that do not affect them - issues that should truly be left to individuals to decide.

The common thread is that they believe they should be able to tell other people how they should/shouldn't live, especially if it doesn't agree with their antiquated 1950's world view. Their viewpoint is equal parts amusing and pathetically out of touch.

Contango

Re: "yet they often are the MOST intrusive."

And isn't it your desire to have the State control all the means of production?

And THAT would not be wholly "intrusive"?

You read extremely confused.

Donegan

It is amusing watching you scream about others being intrusive while your president is running the most secretive intrusive admin in the nations history, Please go on.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I think there should be a separation of "conservative" and "Republican". There are many who are conservative who don't like intrusion and are willing to let people do their own thing as long as it doesn't harm others. SamAdams here comes to mind. She's very conservative yet has consistently advocated for no intrusion. Many Republicans may be conservative, but take their activism to personal decisions which I and many others here DON'T condone. That is why I find myself at odds with "social conservatives" such as Rush Limbaugh, to use a national stage, or even thinkagain here locally.

Each has their opinions, and I read/listen to them, but I don't always support the lifestyle brand of their thinking. I still respect that fact that they at least try to support their cases, which I wish would happen more with both (and especially) liberal and conservative commenters here.

As a young conservative (probably closer to GenX than a Millenial) I am tired of the tropes that continually get invoked like your comment about 1950s legislation. At the same time my eyes roll back and I bleed from the nose every time I see a "conservative" argument that has welfare recipients branded as a parasite class. Ugh.

I'm ecstatic that the Republican party is having fits and death throes as it prepares to modernize and have a (hopefully) Phoenix-like rebirth. I could only wish the Democratic party would do the same thing as it is rife with GOBs, outdated policies/thinking, and party-first mentality.

mimi's word

If you sit around and want everyone to have freedoms but only the freedoms you deem are correct congrats you are a Republican.

Abacus

for the record:

You CAN use SNAP benefits to buy:

Foods for the household to eat, such as:
breads and cereals
fruits and vegetables
meats, fish and poultry; and
dairy products
Seeds and plants to produce food for the household to eat

You CANNOT use SNAP benefits to buy:

Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco
Any nonfood items, such as pet foods, soaps, paper products, diapers, and household supplies
Vitamins and medicines
Food that will be eaten in the store
Hot foods

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