By Sy Mukherjee
Doctors have a message for congressional lawmakers inching toward a compromise farm bill that would cut food stamps by nine billion dollars: It’s a terrible idea.
“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%