The Health Impact of Food Stamp Cuts


With Congress likely to pass a farm bill with an additional $9 billion in cuts to food stamps on top of the cuts that have already taken place, a group of doctors is speaking out against those cuts and pointing out that they could backfire by increasing health care and Medicaid costs.

“If you’re interested in saving health care costs, the dumbest thing you can do is cut nutrition,” Dr. Deborah Frank of Boston Medical Center explained in an interview with the Associated Press. “People don’t make the hunger-health connection.”

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) offers benefits to over 47 million Americans. But the benefit level has fallen to the point that recipients only get about $1.40 per person per meal, even though food stamps often constitute the entirety of a family’s food budget. Doctors and researchers say that additional cuts on the horizon could increase the incidence of medical problems stemming in part from food insecurity, particularly diabetes and its related conditions.

For instance, a 2013 study by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts estimated that House Republican proposals to slash food stamps would increase national health costs for diabetes treatment by $15 billion over a decade. Those costs would disproportionately affect Medicaid, since the public insurance program for the poor — who are considerably more likely to have type 2 diabetes — covers an outsize portion of diabetes spending.

A separate study published this week in the journal Health Affairs illustrates the effect that food insecurity can have on poor Americans’ health in concrete terms. Researchers found that the number of poor Americans being admitted to the hospital because of hypoglycemia — a sharp drop in blood sugar that can be a complication for people with type 2 diabetes — rose by 27 percent in the last week of a month as compared to the first week, since these low-income individuals began to run out of money to spend on food. Wealthier Americans did not experience an analogous spike.

“These findings suggest that exhaustion of food budgets might be an important driver of health inequities,” concluded the study authors.

These cuts have real consequences in the real world. It’s not an abstraction.

Comments

  1. says

    When you have very little money to spend on food, people will typically resort to rice, beans, pasta and potatoes, which are cheap and filling. A diet very heavy in fast acting carbohydrates is believed to be one of the triggers for glucose resistance, which in turn leads to weight gain: it is interesting to note that in westernized cultures, poorer populations are significantly more likely to be overweight than more affluent populations. This weight gain comes with all the health problems associated with it: Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, apnea, gallstones, gout, plus all of the problems that these conditions cause.

    We need to stop subsidizing wheat and corn, and invest instead on bringing food security and cheaper, more nutritious foods to the people.

  2. busterggi says

    If poor people were only rich they wouldn’t have this problem!

    (is tha a Libertarian arguement or a Neo-Conservative one? – I get them mixed up)

  3. Donnie says

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy falls through a worm hole into my hands crica 2014 from the future. It read,

    “When the revolution hit, the GOP insisted it was the Democratic President’s fault due to Obamacare. The populist message worked, because people were poor and pissed and lashed out. Hence, TeapublicStan USA was formed – armed with WMDs – and a sincere desire to see the prophesy of Jesus’ return fulfilled.”

    Unfortunately, Douglas Adams would have said it with a lot more flair and satire, but hey…..

  4. says

    busterggi “If poor people were only rich they wouldn’t have this problem! (is tha a Libertarian arguement or a Neo-Conservative one? – I get them mixed up)”
    No. The NeoCon argument involves invading the homes of those poor (and olive-skinned, generally) people saddled with inconvenient leaders (but not the homes of those lead by people who’ll play ball with us) and forcing them to convert to a system more amenable to our needs, and if that proves to be a dismal failure trying pushing to do the exact same thing somewhere else.

  5. Michael Heath says

    Think Progress writes:

    But the benefit level has fallen to the point that recipients only get about $1.40 per person per meal, even though food stamps often constitute the entirety of a family’s food budget. [Heath bolded]

    I get that there are times when a weasel word is sufficient though I’d argue far less so when you’re getting paid for news content or analysis.

    It’s my understanding that SNAP program subsidies are not sufficient to fund an entire food budget for an individual or family. Instead it’s supplementary; here’s what SNAP represents, “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program”. So it’s important to distinguish some facts here. If there are [weasel alert] “many” people completely dependent on SNAP, that itself is a tragedy, and then to cut even that? I think Think Progress owes its readers more elaboration.

  6. caseloweraz says

    I heard the other day that there’s a budget item for upgrading a tactical nuclear warhead that will never be used. (IIRC it’s the B-16, about 435kT yield.) Eliminating that would save $11 billion right off the bat.

    SNAP problem solved.

    Oh, wait — that would end some jobs at Sandia and LLNL!

    Never mind.

  7. freehand says

    In general the hungry, non-working poor are as motivated as they can be to work. Many of the folks on food stamps are already working.

    It may be that the GOP can motivate them to revolt, however.

    It behooves an oppressive ruling class to leave the peasants some sort of wealth to cling to. If they lose everything, they have nothing left to lose.

  8. says

    freehand “It behooves an oppressive ruling class to leave the peasants some sort of wealth to cling to. If they lose everything, they have nothing left to lose.”
    Naw. The poor whites will keep them in check(*1). What do you think all those guns are for?

     
    *1. Heck, not only that, but the poor whites are rushing to screw themselves out of the same benefits in the process. Never underestimate the power of spite.(*2)
    *2. “Power of Spite” copyright Huey Lewis & The News, 1985.

  9. freehand says

    Modusoperandi: Heck, not only that, but the poor whites are rushing to screw themselves out of the same benefits in the process. Never underestimate the power of spite.

    The mob, apparently, is not a precision tool.

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