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

No you can't buy dog food...I saw a lady buying at least 10 packs of steaks and ground meats...I said oh look who is having a cook out...She said no it is extra meat for my dog...they don't pay for dog food on food stamps...TRUE STORY!!!!
And as far as medicines go if they are on food stamps that means they probably qualify for some medicare...

starryeyes83

People don't always qualify for Medicare if they get SNAP. That's a myth,

Abacus

I must admit to being curious as to the difference between being hungry and being "truly hungry." What are the criteria that need to be met to cross over to being even more desperate? Is it different for adults and children? (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.)

coasterfan

Reading through the above comments, the one thing that immediately stands out is that many conservatives are just plain cruel. Because a possible few might be scamming the system, they think it's ok to throw millions of others under the bus, the vast majority of food stamp recipients who have done nothing wrong who are overcome by economic forces not of their making and beyond their control.

The ultimate irony is that it was THEIR party who caused the massive job losses in 2007-2008, which led to the huge increase in people needing assistance. It's puzzling that they can't seem to acknowledge the rather obvious cause and effect here. There are currently 3 unemployed people for every job opening, yet these callous conservatives think that all unemployed people are "lazy".

I repeat: 76% of food stamp recipients are children, elderly or disabled. Please tell me that these people should not be helped.

"These Americans rely on their unemployment benefits to pay for rent, food and other critical bills. They need our assistance in these difficult times, and we cannot let them down". George H.W. Bush in 2002

Contango

Re: "I repeat: 76% of food stamp recipients are children, elderly or disabled. Please tell me that these people should not be helped."

Which equates to approx. 1 out of 7 Americans and the numbers have grown.

"So here’s the thing about SNAP: it’s one federal program that really has exploded in size in recent years, with the number of beneficiaries rising around 80 percent." - Paul Krugman

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com...

So what is being done to help reduce the numbers instead of just continue to throw money at it?

JMOP

"Their party"? Sure Bush was in office, but democrates in congress and the senate were the majority elected in 2006. Yep, that's when the economy pretty much spiraled out of control.

Donegan

Policy based on emotion is not logical policy. That is common knowledge. You do not want religious policy, Well your emotions mean just about as much as someones religion to those of us who have a brain.
Cruelty, Making the nation listen to a liar drone on about how great he is while the country goes down hill. Have the telepromptor send us all the transcripts and save us the time.

Simple Enough II

That was 12 years ago and since the numbers ave increased dramatically.

Contango

The wrongheaded progressives continue to spew the financial fiction that food stamps, unemployment benefits, et. al promote economic growth.

"But I should point out that when you talk about the snap program or the food stamp program, you have to recognize that it’s also an economic stimulus."

- Sec. of Ag Vilsack

http://archive.mises.org/20807/f...

As long as politicians rob Peter to pay Paul, they can continue to count on the support of Paul.

grandmasgirl

While I know that some people need help (food stamps) to survive, what I think irks most of us is the ones we see abuse it. The other day, I watched a man and woman buy milk, bread, and some chicken with a food stamp card (they have to declare the use of the card before they are rang up. After that purchase, they proceeded to buy a bottle of vodka with cash. That's the thing that upsets me. If they have money for vodka, they have money for SOME food.

thinkagain

Another article that exemplifies the liberal media's diversionary tactics. Fear mongering Democrats do not want to be held accountable for out of control government spending and have no intention of getting serious about budget cuts.

Bluto

Would Jesus let people go hungry , Hmmmm.

Simple Enough II

I guess my concern is, I know of folks who have made choices in their life that have driven their situation and they and their family (parents) seem fine with using all the benefits available for them from the various government sponsored programs and have become "comfortable" in that life style. I think, if you have use of these benefits and can smoke, drink, have a cellphone, have gas to run around, get your your nails done etc, it is to easy to find this acceptable as a lifestyle, what is the incentive to improve?

Bluto

OUTLAW NAIL SALONS , DRINKING , SMOKING , AND CELLPHONES , because it is well known everyone using or doing these things are on food stamps . : )))))

Simple Enough II

Well she is and her parents make a very good living, yet instead of they looking out for their daughter and her kid, they have found it okay for the government to take care of her instead.

Contango

Newsflash:

"Job growth weak, raising questions about Fed move"

"Job creation stumbled in December, with the economy adding just 74,000 positions even as the Federal Reserve voted to take the first steps in eliminating its stimulus program.

The unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent, below economist estimates and due primarily to continued shrinkage in the labor force. The labor force participation rate tumbled to 62.8 percent, its worst level since January 1978."

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101326268

"1978"? Pres. Carter's admin., who got creamed in 1980.

A lousy economy?

Thank Carter II, aka Pres. Obama who thinks that more soup kitchens and bread lines are acceptable paths to economic growth and prosperity.

Peninsula Pundit

Feed the Hungry.
I am going to laugh aloud when I listen to you naysayers try to defend yourselves at the final judgement.
Even though I realize, judging by your comments, that you neither believe nor follow Christ.
If you did, you may think the same way you think now, but maybe would have the decency not to post it.
If these people on food stamps took help who didn't need it, God will make that judgement. It is not yours to decide.

Contango

Re: "Feed the Hungry"

So the food stamp program is the "Lord's work"?

When are FDR, LBJ and others scheduled for sainthood within the Church of the Most Profligate Spending Progressive?

Should Pres. Obama’s title be changed to Pope?

You've conflated the concept of Christian charity with govt. theft.

"For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.'" (2 Thess 3:10)

Bluto

They do say the Lord works in mysterious ways . ; )

grumpy

Re: "If these people on food stamps took help who didn't need it, God will make that judgement. It is not yours to decide."

I guess we can now toss out any concern for separation of church and state. If it is OK for gov't to do so in one thing... is it OK for gov't to do it for other things that are questionable in some religions? Or are you the one who gets to decide which things Gov't can do have religious consiquences and which things gov't does won't.

Mommy25

Maybe if they stop issuing benefits to all the illegals they wouldn't have to worry about cutting the benefits of Americans in need. Maybe if they issued with some restriction it would help. I'm not saying children should be denied any snacks, but perhaps they could limit snacks to a small percentage of the benefits. But the problems are much larger because as a few have mentioned, selling benefits is a huge problem and then those children don't eat anyway. I fostered an infant a few years ago and they issued WIC for the baby. I lived in another county at that point before buying my place in Erie County. When I went to the store to pick up the WIC (powdered formula), the shelf was bare so I asked a clerk when they would be getting some because I really needed it. I was told they had plenty but it was behind the counter up front. My initial reaction was sadness that people would have to steal formula to feed their babies ..... then I talked to the lady at the desk and was shocked ...... people, she told me, were using infant formula to cut with cocaine. My heart just sank as I thought about all the babies whose mothers get WIC that were likely not getting their formula. The problems are much bigger that what most people realize.

Dr. Information

What is disturbing is the SNAP approved foods. High in sugar junk food is about 75% of it. Just walk down the isles of the stores and see what is approved, you will be shocked.

However, we will hear the left cry that its not fair to make all the SNAP approved foods healthy.

starryeyes83

Soon going to be way more than 47% if more plants close up with no jobs to replace them. Too many eligible people in workforce and NOT enough jobs to go around.

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