Docs: Cuts to food stamps likely to increase healthcare costs

Doctors are warning that cutting food stamps could increase healthcare costs for the federal government, causing higher rates of diabetes and developmental problems for young children, among other problems, the Associated Press reported.

"If you're interested in saving healthcare costs, the dumbest thing you can do is cut nutrition," Deborah Frank, M.D., of Boston Medical Center, who founded the Children's HealthWatch pediatric research institute, told the AP. "People don't make the hunger-health connection."

A study published in the journal Health Affairs found that hospital admissions for hypoglycemia among low-income patients with diabetes spiked at the end of the month, when food stamp recipients tend to run out of their monthly allotment.

The risk of being admitted for hypoglycemia increased 27 percent in the last week of the month compared with the first week in the month among low-income patients with diabetes, the study found. The risk did not increase among higher-income patients with diabetes.

"These findings suggest that exhaustion of food budgets might be an important driver of health inequities," the researchers concluded. "Policy solutions to improve stable access to nutrition in low-income populations and raise awareness of the health risks of food insecurity might be warranted."

A study last year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts concluded that cutting $2 billion a year in food stamp benefits could prompt a $15 billion increase in treating people with diabetes over 10 years, according to the AP.

Studies indicate patients who use electronic health record portals and smartphone apps to help them manage their diabetes and monitor their blood glucose levels tend to improve their health, but access to digital solutions can be challenging for lower-income patients.

For more information:
- read the AP article
- check out the study abstract
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