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Government Medicine The Almighty Buck

Doctors Say Food Stamp Cuts Could Cause Higher Healthcare Costs 1043

Posted by samzenpus
from the unintended-consequences dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Lauran Neergaard writes at the Christian Science Monitor that doctors are warning that if Congress cuts food stamps, the federal government could be socked with bigger health bills because over time the poor wind up seeking treatment in doctors' offices or hospitals as a result. 'If you're interested in saving health care costs, the dumbest thing you can do is cut nutrition,' says Dr. Deborah Frank of Boston Medical Center, who founded the Children's HealthWatch pediatric research institute. 'People don't make the hunger-health connection.' Food stamps feed 1 in 7 Americans and cost almost $80 billion a year, twice what it cost five years ago. 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. Conservatives say the program spiraled out of control as the economy struggled and the costs are not sustainable. However 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 (PDF) for 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. 'Food is medicine,' says Massachusetts Representative 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.'"
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Doctors Say Food Stamp Cuts Could Cause Higher Healthcare Costs

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  • by MitchDev (2526834) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @07:04PM (#45934681)

    ...from a "Dollar amount" to specifics foods or types of food. No $$$, just "Bag of apples/fruit", "Vegetables", "Loaf of Bread", "Milk", "Orange/Apple Juice", etc.

    Perhaps have specific Food Stamp distribution centers instead of just about any old store accepting them. Take out the choice and lower the direct fraud (once they get the food from the program, there's not much you can do to stop them selling it if they choose, unless we just set up meal kitchens instead of food stamp, although that has it's appeal as well.)

  • Re:Reading, do it. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 12, 2014 @07:04PM (#45934687)

    The article actually states the $15 billion is the estimated savings on diabetes alone. The total saving would be far higher.

  • I'm somewhat shocked (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DiSKiLLeR (17651) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @07:13PM (#45934741) Homepage Journal

    I'm somewhat shocked that 1 in 7 american's is dependent on foodstamps to get by...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 12, 2014 @07:32PM (#45934841)

    how much junk the average welfare case buys that isn't healthy food. Also watch how much cash they bring in to buy cigarettes, liquor, or gambling merchandise (lottery/lotto tickets, etc). It's fucking pathetic.

    Now THAT said: Random 'spot checks' at various stores could knock out a lot of these over the next 5-20 years. Just watch for people doing such behavior and permanently ban them from the program. (Obviously no jail time, or they'd get to benefit off the system some more.)

    On the *OTHER* hand, the people I ran into who *WEREN'T* abusing them were generally coming into a convenience store to buy ramen because their primary modes of transportation were foot and bus and the particular area did not have any grocery stores offering either late night service, or food priced for the poor. These are the kind of people who need it and for the amount being spent, if it's really 1 in 7 Americans, it's a bargain. (Consider: Every American, assuming 7x the listed rate, would only cost 560 billion a year to feed! Given the yearly budget now, that's a drop in the bucket overall, and combined with at-cost drug manufacturing, could take care of the entire populace for less than a variety of governmental operating costs.)

    Just some food for thought. I personally dislike many aspects of government handouts, but between the poor and the financial institutions, I'd rather it go to the lazy degenerates who don't have the power to fuck up the economy, than the ones who DO :)

  • Re:Math, do it. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lgw (121541) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @07:59PM (#45935023) Journal

    That's a large part of it. But I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around something that was in the summary: it said that 1 in 7 Americans are on stamps. That's an appalling statistic -- 1 in 7 Americans are poor enough that they wouldn't be able to feed themselves without government assistance?

    These two things are not related. A portion of the government wants as many people on food stamps as possible, because as soon as you condition a person to free handouts you get power over them. There's plenty of food in America, to the point where obesity is inversely correlated with income.

    In my childhood my family was quite poor (rural trailer park poor, not like them fancy trailer parks in the big cities). I believe the only reason we escaped that was my mother's refusal to depend on government handouts, and determination to make it on her own (and a far more valuable inheritance than money that was).

    America doesn't need to resort to a program like that to feed it's people either - it's a deliberate trap, to ensure a dependable, dependent underclass.

  • Re:Math, do it. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by icebike (68054) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:06PM (#45935085)

    Agreed, the spread of the program is pretty huge. (It actually averages 14%).

    But again, this may be simply because the program has been expanded beyond its target population lately. The largest growth has been under the current administration, which also happened to coincide with a major 5 year recession which threw millions out of work.

    The most dramatic upturn occurred beginning 2008, with a rapid doubling over prior levels. [usda.gov].

    Its hard to know if these levels will be maintained as people go back to work. Once eligibility requirements are loosened, they seldom are tightened. So IF (just sayin) this administration loosened the requirements, then food stamp levels will remain high.

    However, if the recession caused more families to full under existing requirements, then you would expect a decline in participation. We may just be looking at a huge, but temporary bump. If so, the program is working a intended, and people need to understand this, and maybe spend two minutes thinking about how proud of their country they would be if there were wide-spread starvation.

    There are some interesting figures here: http://www.statisticbrain.com/food-stamp-statistics/ [statisticbrain.com]

  • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:07PM (#45935097)

    Quart of milk or orange juice cost more than a quart of soda.

    Orange juice is actually worse for you than soda, that's why you drink it from a smaller glass. If you buy it from concentrate, it will be about the same price as soda. I am on a budget, so that's what I do. I rarely by soda, but when I do I buy it in fancy glass bottles because it's a treat.

    Canned vegetables (high sodium) cost more than frozen.

    And they're much worse for you. Again, I'm on a budget so I only buy frozen vegetables.

    Where I live, high-fat hamburger is much cheaper than chicken.

    I've never seen that, and I would be really surprised if it were true. I buy 3-pound bags of frozen chicken for $5, and 3-pound bags of frozen hamburgers for $10. Maybe the story is a little different if you're buying fresh, but then you probably aren't shopping on a budget anyway.

    I know a disabled veteran who is diabetic. He can't afford to eat the meals the VA nutritionist recommends.

    I'd have to know more about this to unpack it, but my own experience is that buying frozen food is much cheaper than anything else except for rice, beans, and flower. Nutritionally, there is no reason to pick fresh food over frozen food.

  • Re: Decreased Costs (Score:2, Interesting)

    by couchslug (175151) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:14PM (#45935141)

    They knew better than to have five kids, but they didn't care.
    I'm sitting in front of my inexpensive computer in my (paid for) house because I'm not fucking stupid. I've worked with folks from poor and prosperous backgrounds, and the successful sort know not to breed what you can't feed.
    Children are a choice, and while I'm actually fine with feeding the poor as an alternative to spending more on them, let's never pretend that stupid people deserve respect. We pay for these burdensome losers to buy political peace. It's cheaper than prison.

  • Re: Decreased Costs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by guises (2423402) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:22PM (#45935213)

    Why should anyone the right to create more people with no consequences?

    I don't see why this is a problem exclusively surrounding poor people. We live in an overcrowded world.

  • Re:Decreased Costs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:39PM (#45935333) Journal

    All of the fat asses will have less food. If they want better nutrition maybe they should get a better job.

    Well, one small problem... okay, a couple:

    Grocery stores are a bit rare in the ghetto, and those few which exist usually charge exorbitant prices while providing very little in the way of variety (and don't ask about the produce.)

    Most of these mothers have a shit education courtesy of public schooling (assuming the mother actually completed high school - usually she didn't), so "dinner" usually means fast-food takeout, or whatever the local bodega has in the way of food (imagine growing up on convenience store burritos and soda every night...)

    Jobs suck in depressed areas - triply so if you have no education.

    Moving (or even saving up enough money to do that) is a trial at best - especially when you consider that most "services" in depressed areas are geared towards screwing over the poor (see also payday loans, credit cards, etc).

    Finally, the capper: government assistance sucks. It is geared towards insuring that once you are on it, you never come off of it. The moment you start making any money, you get taxed hard, you lose the assistance funding, and they kick you out of that government-assisted housing. Oh, and since you haven't the education or funds to access tax specialists or any other real option, you're basically fucked and stuck.

    Now this isn't always the case - with the help of family, you can pull yourself out of such straits. However, because family has been pretty much obliterated over the decades in these areas by the lack of fathers, and by an overweening demand by certain ideologues that family is an anachronism? Well, it's part of how you wind up with a permanent underclass. ...and no one seems to want to fix this. The right wants to cut down funds in order to force initiative and drive, while the left wants to smooth over it with more money. To be honest, neither answer is correct - but a hybrid of the two would work well, if done right. Put a time limit on the funds, but require the recipient take classes, look for work, etc - then provide enough assistance towards the end so that the newly-working single mother isn't faced with instant penalties just for making a paycheck.

  • Re:Math, do it. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by canadian_right (410687) <alexander.russell@telus.net> on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:44PM (#45935371) Homepage

    I guess it depends where you live, but up here in Vancouver BC, healthy fresh food is quite a but cheaper than processed food, fast food, and junk food. You have to be able to cook, but cooking is so easy you teach your average 12 year old in a few months.

    I do recall a visiting consultant being amazed at our selection of fresh fruits and veggies at the local grocery store, and it was a store with a pretty small selection. Seems in a lot of places in the USA just finding healthy fresh food can be hard.

  • Re:Math, do it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:51PM (#45935427)
    My wife grew up with a welfare queen for a mother, and has been on welfare herself. She makes in the top 20% of wage earners now, and is pretty well off.

    The worst thing about the US system is the thought that someone on welfare is a "bad" person. The places with lots of welfare and fewer problems with it do a better job of having it thought of as a tool, not a brand of failure.

    That your mother refused free money makes her dumb, not smart.
  • Re:Math, do it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Velex (120469) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:04PM (#45935511) Journal
    This, children, is what's known as the tragedy of the commons. Unfortunately, Americans see welfare as a lifestyle, not a tool.
  • Re: Math, do it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:11PM (#45935563)

    Hell some states are much worse than others, with laws that allow restaurants to pay wait staff $3 an hour. Yes the difference is meant to be covered by tips, but get a bad schedule or just a stingy tipping crowd (fun fact, the more someone makes the less likely they will tip drivers and waitstaff in low end restauraunts) it's not uncommon to take home an average of $4 an hour for a full work schedule.

    That's illegal. The minimum wage (at least in Texas) is set. The restaurant can pay less with the expectation of tips making up the difference, but if they don't, the restaurant is required to make up the difference to get them to the "regular" minimum wage. Most don't, they just fire you if you complain (I've seen it happen).

  • Re: Decreased Costs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Belial6 (794905) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:33PM (#45935721)
    I would go with one of the birth control implants (they are both trivially reversible, and you only have to remember to take it once ever few years).

    You have to be careful with the "it's for the children" argument. If you let people use children as human shields, they will. While it sounds humane in the short run, it isn't in the long run. I know that there are a lot of people who don't believe that parents would willfully abuse their children, but it most certainly happens regularly.

    That being said, I keep moving closer and closer to being a proponent of a minimum income for everyone. I believe that we are rapidly approaching (or may have already past) the point that there simply isn't enough real work for everyone to have a job. Sure their are plenty of ditches that could be dug with a spoon, but that isn't really productive.
  • Re:Math, do it. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SuperTechnoNerd (964528) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @10:55PM (#45936233)

    The worst thing about the US system is the thought that someone on welfare is a "bad" person.

    I tried to explain that this is not the case to this guy I know who makes well into 6 figures (he'll never let anyone forget that). He thinks anyone on welfare should die on the streets because they are just sub human leeches, and there should be no such thing as welfare in the first place. "It's everyone's responsibility to go out and get a good job and make lots of money. Anyone can do it! If you don't you must be dumb or lazy or both and should just shoot yourself to make room for hard working people" he says. No surprise he was never married, no kids,hates animals, and has almost no friends except my uncle - who also makes a great deal of money too but is not as a big of an ass hole.

  • Re:Math, do it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @11:02PM (#45936253)

    That's a large part of it. But I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around something that was in the summary: it said that 1 in 7 Americans are on stamps. That's an appalling statistic -- 1 in 7 Americans are poor enough that they wouldn't be able to feed themselves without government assistance?

    There are two Americas. One in which a lot of people like those who work at WalMart, and fast food joints work, and yes, a lot of those folks qualify easily for Food stamps.

    Minimum wage is the working wage for many people. And while it is common for many to bray about how a higher minimum wage is a job killer, who picks up that tab for the food stamps? Hint, it's the rest of us. And that's the big thing. These companies have managed to get the taxpayers to pay for their employees food stamps so that we can have "Everyday Low Low Prices!"

    And let's not forget Section 8 housing, so that these people have a place to live.

    So what to do? Unless we want to engage in some horrible Soylent Green solution, we have a lot of people out there who need to have some way of feeding and housing themselves. And despite what some say, a lot of these people work very hard, not a "Welfare Queen" in sight. For many of these folk, a Job at WalMart is about th height they can aspire to. And that's okay - I think that for too long, Americans have been sold the idea that the only thing keeping anyone from wealth and fame is their "will" or lack of it.

    I'm not even sure how we do it at this point, because it is a mess. If we take as a starting point that the average American should be able to afford a modest house and to be self sufficient in feeding and clothing their family - that is becoming difficult. And if we have the idea that if the person who is willing to work, they should be able to support themselves, it becomes even more daunting. GIven that the average age of a McDonald's worker is now alomst 30, we can see that some folks are now trying to eke out a career in these places. At our local Mickey D's, a lot of the workers have degrees. They just don't have anywhere up the ladder to go. And they aren't lazy either.

    For myself, I rose well out of the social level that I was born into. And at one point, I thought that "will" was all it took. But upon retirement, and upon reflection, I did all that by being sort of pathological, which is not a trait that would work if everyone had it - we'd all be at each other throats.

  • by DogDude (805747) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @11:23PM (#45936375) Homepage
    I saw military jets do a flyover over our local University football stadium this weekend.

    Now, tell me more about this wasted $13.50 that you witnessed...
  • Re:Math, do it. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @11:36PM (#45936449)

    That's a large part of it. But I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around something that was in the summary: it said that 1 in 7 Americans are on stamps. That's an appalling statistic -- 1 in 7 Americans are poor enough that they wouldn't be able to feed themselves without government assistance?

    These two things are not related. A portion of the government wants as many people on food stamps as possible, because as soon as you condition a person to free handouts you get power over them.

    There is so much wrong with that comment that I'm amazed anyone would make it. You figure if the "free handouts" would end, and the people taking the "free handouts" made enough money they didn't need the "free handouts" they would insist on them anyhow?

    There's plenty of food in America, to the point where obesity is inversely correlated with income.

    Those fucking Poor People! Don't you wish they would just go away and DIE?" They want everything, and give nothing. No seriously. DO you actually think that obesity is inversely correlated to wealth, and not by quality of calories consumed? That these poor people are getting too much food?

    In my childhood my family was quite poor (rural trailer park poor, not like them fancy trailer parks in the big cities).

    I was also poor - back in the days before food stamps. There was surplus food them, free, which would have to be even more of t rap than food stamps Show up, get some food for nothing. A socialist paradise. Surely a trap that would make people into Commies pronto. Would you believe that we dind't have to work for the Cheese and peanut butter we got?

    I believe the only reason we escaped that was my mother's refusal to depend on government handouts, and determination to make it on her own (and a far more valuable inheritance than money that was).

    Self reliance is indeed a good thing.

    America doesn't need to resort to a program like that to feed it's people either - it's a deliberate trap, to ensure a dependable, dependent underclass.

    After all, the only thing separating the poor form the rich is that the poor deliberately choose to be poor, and if they cannot survive on their own, they should just cease to exist, so that right thinking people like you can ascend to their proper place - right?

    Most very respectfully, I've heard your shit all over. I started out poor, and ended up in the upper middle class, and am now retired. I did it by being almost pathological, and stomped on a few people in my day to get as far as I did. And no, not a bit of it had anything to do with the surplus cheese and peanut butter that we fed ourselves with, and sometimes actual real butter. You insult my family and myself.

    Perhaps it's just the knowledge gained with years, perhaps I'm just some asshole who doesn't think right. But everyone cannot be wealthy. Just isn't enough GNP.

  • Re:Math, do it. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by allcoolnameswheretak (1102727) on Monday January 13, 2014 @10:12AM (#45939331)

    The U.S. has a higher GDP per capita than most large European countries, even higher than the richest, most developed and most populous country in Europe, Germany. Despite this, there are much more homeless and poor people in the U.S. than in Europe, and far more incarcerated people. Why? The shear between poor and rich in the U.S. is extreme, most likely the largest among western countries. Imagine how much rich people in the U.S. make if they manage to pull up the GDP per capita rating above a country like Germany, despite 1/7th of the population relying on food stamps. Why are the rich so rich and the poor so poor? Well, slavery has been outlawed in the U.S. so corporations have been smart about it and exporting industry into third world countries were quasi slavery is legal. The difference between paying a decent wage in the U.S. and paying next to nothing is pocketed by the wealthy 2%; CEO's, managers, shareholders. In practice, this is a direct money transfer from the middle-class to the upper-class. That's globalization for you. A popular argument in favor of the system claims that goods have become cheaper as a result, and we can all afford a better lifestyle. Yes, many goods have indeed become cheaper, but this is a result of increased production and technological expertise, not because they are cheaper to produce. The profit margin on your latest iPad is still immense. Also, people without jobs and income can't afford much of anything, so those who can afford a better lifestyle become less and less.

    Now, after being sabotaged out of the middle-class, in the U.S. you are screwed because there is no social safety net to speak of. In the U.S. there is no room for socialism. There is no money for it either, because most of the tax money flows into the channels of those who can afford the best lobbyists. In the U.S. everything revolves around money, and those with it have been shaping the political landscape in their favor, creating a positive feedback cycle in which more and more tax money flows into corporations in form of subsidies, foreign military aid (more subsidies), government contracts (even more subsidies), wars (yet another name for subsidies), prisons (there is an entire industry in the U.S. revolving around prisons and hence interested in keeping crime up and having even minor offences punishable by prison sentence), etc.
    Needless to say, there is just not enough money to go around for schools and infrastructure, let alone welfare, when you have all these government subsidies to fulfill, which keeps America's industry competitive and healthy. Yes, that industry that just outsourced another development plant to India.
    So, the middle class is cannibalized, the rich get richer, the poor stay poor, everybody looks on because that is the way politics and economics work in the country of endless capitalism, all the while the heart of America disintegrates and everyone wonders, just how did the Chinese become so rich and successful all of a sudden? Well, here it is for you: American CEO's saved Communism while showing us the fatal flaws of capitalism!

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