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Government Medicine The Almighty Buck

Doctors Say Food Stamp Cuts Could Cause Higher Healthcare Costs 1043

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

    by danlip ( 737336 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:01PM (#45934669)

    And can I say that the way the editors set the link break in the summary made it very easy to miss the "over the next decade" part or that sentence.

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

    by jamie ( 78724 ) * Works for Slashdot <jamie@slashdot.org> on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:07PM (#45934711) Journal

    As the linked article points out, that $15 billion is a simple correlation based on diabetes alone.

    When cost savings are almost erased by one disease, maybe someone hasn't thought through the unintended consequences.

  • by Two99Point80 ( 542678 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:11PM (#45934729) Homepage
    From the linked PDF: "Thus, diabetes costs alone could nearly equal CBO’s estimate of $20 billion in savings over 10 years from implementing proposed SNAP changes in H.R.1947, in addition to any costs associated with other diseases."
  • Re:Math, do it. (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:13PM (#45934735)

    I see people selling their FS all the time.. Even get offers to buy from total strangers...

    Additionally, you can buy all the junk food, candy bars, and ice cream with food stamps... See that all the time too.

  • Re:second whine (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:17PM (#45934755)

    Even then, the solution is education, not persecution

    No, the solution is to prevent idiots from breeding. Education is
    already available and has not fixed the problem in many decades.

  • Re:second whine (Score:2, Informative)

    by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:17PM (#45934757)

    I am all for feeding the poor. This country is rich and can afford food for the needy. The problem is the way the program is run. I'd like to see some changes to cut out fraud and also to do something about some of the misuse. Still and all I think we need to maintain a food stamp program. Of all the money the government pisses away this is one thing I think we need.

  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:33PM (#45934853)

    Take out the choice

    The department of Agriculture, which runs the Food Stamp Program, is tasked by law to make sure there is enough food for everyone and that everyone gets fed. Food stamps were born by order of the Supreme Court, not Congress.

    I'm pretty sure you won't find much support for having DOA nannies standing at every dinner table to make sure everyone on food stamps eats their collard greens. I'm positive you would accomplish nothing with this approach.

    There is no way you can supply food support while at the same time make sure that no budget shifting takes place. They money that might have gone for what people get for free on food stamps will be directed to other foods. Or what-ever. Food stamps were not intended to fix stupid. Just Hungry. You ALREADY can't buy beer on food stamps, stop trying to micromanage the program you apparently know nothing about.


  • Re:second whine (Score:5, Informative)

    by sqrt(2) ( 786011 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:41PM (#45934901) Journal

    You'll be happy to find out that SNAP (aka "food stamps") is already one of the best run programs our government has ever set up in terms of efficency and lack of fraud. [cbpp.org] It is a model for effective solutions to social problems. That fraud is rampant among SNAP receipients is simply a myth--and one that has been deliberatly crafted over generations to achieve certain political goals.

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

    by PlusFiveTroll ( 754249 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:45PM (#45934935) Homepage

    > a bigbox store like walmart wants to open up and provide jobs that pay a wage

    I can't tell if this is sarcasm or not?

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-13/how-mcdonald-s-and-wal-mart-became-welfare-queens.html [bloomberg.com]

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

    by PlusFiveTroll ( 754249 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:48PM (#45934957) Homepage

    >The whole idea of paying farmers not to farm is wrong headed.

    Yet another person who doesn't understand land and soil conversation, and the long term effects of farming on soil health.

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

    by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:53PM (#45934991) Journal

    Without the subsidies and price supports, you soon would not have many farms growing food. Or are we to ignore the lead up to the dust bowl and great depression in order to make a point that farmers are rich or something?

    The Idea of paying farmers not to farm (which doesn't happen much any more since we export so much now) is specifically to stop all the farms from going under when prices fall below the costs of production and concentrating production into a few large factory farms that will create severe shortages when a natural or other disaster takes them offline for a season. Having stable food prices is pretty much a necessity of modern society.

    The majority of markup from the costs of food comes from middle men, not the farm. whether it's investors purchasing commodities in order to turn a profit or packaging companies, the majority of the costs go elsewhere. The American farmer only sees about 12 percent of every dollar you spend on food.

  • Re:No (Score:2, Informative)

    by civilizedINTENSITY ( 45686 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:53PM (#45934999)
    Quart of milk or orange juice cost more than a quart of soda.
    Canned vegetables (high sodium) cost more than frozen.
    Where I live, high-fat hamburger is much cheaper than chicken.
    I know a disabled veteran who is diabetic. He can't afford to eat the meals the VA nutritionist recommends.
  • Re: Math, do it. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Adriax ( 746043 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:55PM (#45935007)

    Depending on the state you can work 40hr a week and still easily qualify for food stamps. That's not saying food stamps have a high max income limit, but min wage is so far below the poverty line it's a joke.
    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.

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

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:01PM (#45935045) Journal

    I don't know the specific numbers, but food stamps / EBT is relatively easy to get, and the exact amount received monthly is calculated based on the income and size of the family. A family might only get $75 a month, for example. So saying that "1 in 7 Americans are poor enough that they wouldn't be able to feed themselves without government assistance" is certainly not the case, as many of the recipients are only getting a small amount to help supplement their food purchases.

    A quick googling shows that the average amount received monthly is $133.08. Of course some families may receive several times that amount, and others much less. The maximum gross income for a family of 4 to receive any SNAP benefits is somewhere around $2,800. According to this online calculator [ndhealth.gov], a family of 4 with an income of $2,800 would get $8 a month assistance. If the income is $2,500 it jumps up to $80 a month.

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

    by ILongForDarkness ( 1134931 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:15PM (#45935149)

    Obesity is inversely related to income because healthy foods cost more than unhealthy ones. You need to be pretty well off to get nice clean carbs and protein. But for 99cents you can get a nice big bag of chips.

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

    by citizenr ( 871508 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:16PM (#45935161) Homepage

    Diabetes isn't a food stamp issue.
    To a large extent type two diabetes an educational issue.

    Nah, it all goes back to Dept of Agriculture and high Corn subsidies.

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

    by NicBenjamin ( 2124018 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:24PM (#45935231)

    I worked in one of those stores. A single mother of five is almost certainly better off not joining the staff.

    She's starting 20 hours a week* at just above minimum wage. That's about $160 a week. Daycare for five kids destroys that. Since it's a big box store all associates are expected to open once a week and close once a week, and they really like to change the schedule every week so you have no clue whether you'll be home Tuesday night three weeks from now, which means she has no clue whether your eldest will need to babysit his brothers or he can agree to go to an Academic Games tournament.

    In other words getting the job is going to make her a worse mother without bringing in anywhere near enough to pay the bills. The only reasons for her to take the job are a) it might convince some self-righteous asshole who inherited $500k and turned his hobby into a job in the State Senate that she's not one of Those People, allowing her to keep her government benefits longer, and b) it qualifies her for the Earned Income Credit at tax time.

    The reason left-wing working-class black city councils tend to be anti-Walmart isn't that black people are stupid morons who've been brainwashed by hippies, it's that they've done this math.

    *Cashiers at my store usually start at 10 hours, and cashier is the entry-level for almost all women who are hired in, so 20 hours is probably an exaggeration. Garden is the other way women get in, they only get 20-25 hours there, and it's not unusual for Corporate to decree that there's no budget to hire them permanently after six months.

  • by PlusFiveTroll ( 754249 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:27PM (#45935243) Homepage

    >So we've doubled the amount of money we spend on food stamps and we have record numbers of Americans that rely on the government for their food.

    Have you tried to reword that in the correct fashion?

    We have record numbers of Americans that rely on the government for their food and have doubled the amount of money we spend on food stamps.

    You also neglect that most of the people on food stamps ALSO HAVE A JOB.

    You also neglect that the average household size on foodstamps is 2 and only a very small percentage of foodstamps households are over 4.

    I'd go on debunking the rest of your 'talking points', but I'm not going to convince you of your ignorance on the matter, and you're not going to do any research to enlighten yourself on the matter.

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

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:33PM (#45935289)

    Soil conservation has nothing to do with the programs that pay farmers to keep farms out of production.
    Its price supports, plain and simple.

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

    by canadian_right ( 410687 ) <alexander.russell@telus.net> on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:55PM (#45935463) Homepage

    Banks were not forced to lend to people who could not pay. Banks paid big bonuses to people to sign up as many people as possible, whether they could pay or not, then repackaged those bad mortgages as financial instruments that the rating firms then rated as AAA when they were junk, sold to investors, and laughed as they made big bucks while the economy crashed.

    Greed and deregulation caused the crash.

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

    by litehacksaur111 ( 2895607 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @09:55PM (#45935467)
    Detroit collapsed because people left as the auto industry there was collapsing. This had nothing to do with welfare. Also there was the whole thing with white flight which drastically drove down property values. Corruption of city officials and mismanagement of funds also contributed. However, if the pensions were adequately funded as they were supposed to be, then Detroit would be fine today. http://www.freep.com/interactive/article/20130915/NEWS01/130801004/Detroit-Bankruptcy-history-1950-debt-pension-revenue [freep.com]
  • Re:Math, do it. (Score:4, Informative)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @11:06PM (#45935917)

    Milk costs more than soda.

    I just checked my Wal-Mart receipt. A gallon of 2% milk is $3.19. A HALF gallon of soda is $2.19. So, no, the milk is not more expensive.

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

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @11:16PM (#45935985)

    The counter evidence is that

    1. The CRA was passed in 1977, some 30 years before the collapse.

    2. Most of the bad mortgages were issued in the 2 years prior to the collapse.

    Sorry, but the meme that the CRA caused the collapse is ridiculous on the face of it.

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

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @11:21PM (#45936025)

    80% of the bad loans were issued by financial institutions not even subject to the CRA.

    http://www.businessweek.com/investing/insights/blog/archives/2008/09/community_reinv.html [businessweek.com]

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

    by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @11:47PM (#45936191) Homepage

    It's a form of indentured servitude. And yes, the politicians social engineer society as to garner votes.

    I've met plenty of Republicans in the past that now vote Democrat. It's not that they like the party, but are afraid of losing their benefits. More and more people are depending on government. Even the Republican party has turned, which explains the rise of the Tea Party to fill the void. Same thing is happening with immigration reform. The Democratic Party is in favor of amnesty while the Republicans have turned a blind eye. Everyone knows it's going to happen because the hispanic bloc represents the single largest voter gain in the history of the world. Overnight, we will see *millions* of new voters. Both parties want in on the action. To hell with enforcing existing immigration laws, right?

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

    by cold fjord ( 826450 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @12:07AM (#45936283)

    Microwave a potato or sweet potato. Inexpensive, fast, filling, better nutrition. A little pepper, maybe a couple of drops of olive oil or some such, good. (Still good without it.)

    Frozen veggies aren't that expensive, and are pretty convenient.

    If you're trying to eat cheap the crock pot is your friend, along with grains, beans, and rice. Meat and bean dishes go a lot further than just meat.

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

    by Roblimo ( 357 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @12:37AM (#45936451) Homepage Journal

    My (black) son-in-law Chucky started a business installing, dismantling and rehabbing office cubicles a few years back. He's been growing it steadily, almost entirely through referrals and repeats.

    He routinely beats white-owned competitors on both quality and price. He gets no government help, and is only now starting to go after government contracts.

    You were saying?

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

    by Roblimo ( 357 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @12:51AM (#45936525) Homepage Journal

    "Everyone loves to hate on the banks. But they were forced into these stupid loans."

    Really? Where I live (Florida), the banks were forced to lend money to prosperous white Republicans who were buying property to flip? And to mobsters and friends of the banks' directors?

    Here's a big investigative series our local paper did last year on Florida bank failures: http://htcreative.com/bankProject/banks.aspx [htcreative.com]

    Issuing mortgages to food stamp recipients in poor neighborhoods doesn't seem to have been the big problem. And the thing about banks being forced to loan to people who weren't creditworthy was a right-wing lie. You didn't fall for it, right? Me neither!

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

    by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @03:21AM (#45937067) Homepage Journal

    Republican businessmen themselves know better than to work at starvation wages.

    I once heard a management consultant give a presentation to a bunch of printers. He ran through the costs of running a folding machine, and it came out to something like $50 an hour. He said, if you sell folding for less than $50 an hour, you're losing money. And the harder you work, the more money you're losing. A lot of printers have very busily gone out of business.

    If you're an employee, you'll lose money on a minimum wage job, and you're better off not working at that rate.

    Most people who work for Wallmarts are making less than it takes for them to survive. Some of them do get welfare, more of them get food stamps, if they have children they get child tax credits, and they can't afford doctors, so if they get sick, they go to the emergency room and the rest of us pay for it.

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

    by Pseudonym Authority ( 1591027 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @04:05AM (#45937227)
    They didn't break the line, your browser did. It autofits to the width of the window over a certain amount. Try buying a wider monitor before you start theorizing liberal conspiracies on the part of the so-called editors.
  • by Phoenix666 ( 184391 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @11:39AM (#45939717)

    For additional perspective, I participated in a hackathon in NYC last spring that focused on food insecurity in Newark, NJ. The problem was that in many poorer parts of Newark there are virtually no supermarkets and no produce to be had. Most people had to get food at corner delis because they did not have cars and could not get to a larger market. Now the problem was, none of the food at the delis had price tags, and no receipts were given after purchase. So the deli owners could and did charge ridiculous prices like $4/lb for apples at the beginning of the month, when everyone got their SNAP benefits, and then extend credit with interest to customers at the end of the month when those benefits had been exhausted. So everyone was under the thumb of their local deli owner and you had to keep good relations with him or he could decide to charge you $7/lb for apples or refuse to extend you credit to get you through the end of the month. It was difficult for us techies to wrap our heads around, but the problem is real and pernicious. There are places in this country where large numbers of people suffer under food slavery, and cutting the SNAP benefits they rely on compounds the problem severely.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson