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

phroggy

Well, maybe if the worthless folks receiving them would stop trading food for drugs....

Factitious

"Doctors are warning..." Nonsense. What doctors? Type 2 diabetes is caused too much food, not too little, and everyone knows it. This article is propaganda from the food industry, that grows fat on SNAP, which ruins people's health by making them fat. SNAP should allow healthy food only, but Congress only approves what wealthy campaign donors like.

One way to give low-income people a fighting chance to get ahead is to reduce taxes they pay but instead we unfairly increase sales tax while cutting income tax at the top, where no help is needed at all. We give tax subsidies for luxury second homes but housing subsidies for low-income people is no help, it just makes slum landlords rich.

Our economy is managed to ensure a surplus of labor so that it's cheap and desperate. That's convenient for employers but costly to society. The only way to have economic justice is to get money out of politics, so that we can have a government for all people, not just greedy selfish people.

mimi's word

If they look at what people usually buy on food stamps it is nothing healthy...twinkies, pop, snacks, chips, red meat...

The Big Dog's back

Do CONservatives ever consider collateral damage when they legislate hate?

rbenn

Wanting someone to get a job and work instead of mooching isnt hate moron. God that koolaid must be extra strong lately

gene44870

But theres something all you people that slam the food stamps program dont think about , And that its a known fact that when they cut foodstamps , they cut it across the board , thats retirees as well as the disabled . So please , before you open you mouth try to think of the whole picture and not just the part you can use to come on and slam people on the program .

Simple Enough II

If you are retired why do you not have enough income to well be "retired"?

mikesee

Snappers are already buying junk food so IMO it can't get any worse.

Bottom Line

Well this article is a complete joke. More excuses for more handouts out of our pockets. Just trying to appease that 47%.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I believe the article reflected the sentiment well, though it doesn't call out the inane reasoning for increasing a program that already spends $80,000,000,000.00/year. I'll point out the (sarcastic) rock-solid reasons why we need (according to them) to increase payments:

could backfire
could be socked
Maybe not immediately, they say, but over time
down the road
cutting food aid could backfire
Seligman couldn't prove that running low on food was to blame.
could provide
could trigger in an increase
30 percent more likely
cutting food stamps could worsen health and raise health costs for the poorest.

This is how we make our economic discussions, ladies and gentlemen. As long as something could happen, we need to make sure it absolutely can't despite nothing ever changing despite how much/many programs exists to supposedly change circumstances. Looks like the War on Poverty is faring as well as the War on Drugs. Happy 50th Anniversary! I can't believe we've been free of poverty for that long now. You almost can't tell that there's an entire population who gets jerked around by our government as it controls their very lives.

Bluto

Which population are you referring to ? The invisible poor , or the rich elite who feel entitled to better standards ? The sob stories work from either point of view if you twist it the right way . ; )

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

The intention was regarding the poor, but as you point out it seems rather universal in nature which I'll take as a serendipity. Especially as I hate "classifying" human beings.

Professor Playdoh

I'm not sure what you mean by the rich elite who feel entitled to better standards. I have worked many years and make a very good income. If I'm paying for "better standards", why is that "feeling entitled?

Bluto

Some rich people think they are above everyone else . Like the kid who got off of murder charges because they pleaded that he was too rich to know better . That he believed that he was beyond the laws of poor or even middle class people . Thus he thinks he's entitled to a better standard then a run of the mill murderer . I believe daddy got him into a plush rehabilitation facility that looked more like an extravagant vacation resort .

Contango

Re: "Some rich people think they are above everyone else ."

True.

And some poor in the U.S. have a "you owe me" entitlement attitude and believe that there is some kind of sense of nobility in poverty.

It takes all kinds to make a world, but I've generally found that cream rises to the top.

I agree, I thought that verdict was BS myself. A poor kid should plead "poorfluenza."

donutshopguy

Limit only healthy food to be purchased with government entitlement. Fruits, vegetables and lean meat for example.

Problem solved. I'm not a doctor but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

Simple Enough II

Sound logic & LOL on the last comment!

Bluto

Ok , let's put it this way " Limit guns and ammo to be purchased with government regulation . clip capacity , registration of all owners , and mental evaluations for example . Problem solved , I'm not a doctor and this makes about as much sense as donutshop guys comment , because those food stamp limitations already exist . : ))))) I think we have a love / hate relationship going on here with government . We love it as long as it doesn't interfere with our guns or money .

Simple Enough II

My tax dollars doesn't provide me with free guns & ammo. Also Where in the constitution does it give the government the power to take from one and give to the other who the government has deemd poor or needy?

Abacus

In can be difficult when facts get in the way of prejudices.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/beth...

The Bizness

You posted the best comment, yet sadly no one probably read the info graph.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Forget the infograph. I went for the sources it quotes. It baffles me how people keep claiming that you get +X% for every $Y spent. The infograph doesn't bother to explain it. So, going to the report itself that it quotes...

"Moody’s Analytics estimates that in a weak economy, every $1 increase in SNAP benefits generates about $1.70 in economic activity."

Guess it just keeps getting passed around like a game of operator. Of course nobody asks where the money first comes from, what "economic activity" means, or the fact that it is simply an estimate yet is parroted as if it is 100% Nobel-earning economics.

So the search continues. It took my to FRAC.org which parrots the figure but cites Moody's economics.com site. Couldn't find it there through the in-site search so I broadened it to Google and...

https://www.economy.com/mark-zan...

So, a document made in January of 2008 that suggested a one-year temporary increase would supposedly generate $1.73 for every $1 spent. It's on Page 4 if you want to check it out. It also refers to the action as "priming the pump". Still priming now six years later it seems.

Reading the entire document is an interesting time capsule for sure.

Contango

According to the progressives, if I give my daughter $5.00, our household (economy) is $5.00 wealthier.

Keynes viewed govt. expenditures as temporary, not as a permanent means to prosperity.

If bastardized Keynesianism actually worked, we should call up Bernanke/Yellen and have 'em print up a couple hundred trillion dollars, pass it out and poverty will end!!!!

SNAP should be privatized and control returned to the local level.

Factitious

Funny you should bring that up. Direct payments to the people who need and deserve it, the victims of Wall Street, is the kind of stimulus that works better and costs far less. Instead, Congress approves stimulus that gives most of the money to people who don't need it and those who do just get the "trickle down."

Contango

Re: "Congress approves stimulus that gives most of the money to people who don't need it,"

There ya go!

Need I remind you for the 'umpteenth' time?

TARP and the Stimulus Program were approved by a Democrat held Congress.

Kottage Kat

65 diabetic worked 40 years had to retire for health reasons 15.00 per month SNAP. That is 50 cents a day to eat on. Food bank food is NOT diabetic friendly. No junque food here. There are alot of us out there who are not lazy and are trying.
I would rather be working.

Pterocarya frax...

Quit smoking and you will have more money for food.

candleburner

Where in anything Kottage Kat said was "smoking" listed? I didn't see anything about that so why do you automatically assume that they do? You can't just jump to a conclusion that a person smokes and that's something that they could give up to give them more money every month.

Pterocarya frax...

From the story 2 days ago about empty grocery store shelves:

Kottage Kat
Tue, 01/07/2014 - 2:03pm

No TV, computer. Do no use electric can opener. Don't drink,had food coffee and cigarettes I did no impulse buying. Always have toliet paper. No big deal here.

candleburner

Well I apologize for what I said then. I hadn't seen the previous post and didn't know. I do know though that most people just automatically say things without knowing what the whole situation or circumstances are and it bothers me. My nephew has been overweight his entire life because he has been on high levels of steroids since he was 3 months old and they quite frankly are what's keeping him alive. People don't know that though and they just see a young man that's overweight and think he must eat nothing but junk food and if he's having a candy bar or something they flip out! Well he does have diabetes and he actually has more self control than I've ever seen and has been on a diabetic diet for many years but because of the steroid use he's still overweight. He'll always be judged no matter what because people will always just look at the outside and not the whole picture and that's why I got a little upset by what you said. Again I apologize for what I said but I hope now you'll understand why I said it.

Pages