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Doctors lobby against food stamp reductions

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Congressional plans to cut food stamps could “dramatically raise health care costs,” according medical experts including Boston Medical Center’s Dr. Deborah Frank, founder of the Children’s Health Watch pediatric research Institute.

“If you are interested in saving health care costs, the dumbest thing you can do is cut nutrition,” she stated, noting that “hunger can cause development problems in children, as well as dramatically raise the rate of diabetes among the poor.”

Yet, members of Congress argue that the program, which now feeds 1 out of every 7 Americans, has too big a price tag at $80 billion a year, and had voted to cut benefits by 15% as of November 1st last year, just a month before allowing unemployment benefits to expire for more than 1 million out-of-work people, who now have even less money to feed their families (see http://www.examiner.com/article/48-million-americans-to-get-a-lot-hungri...).

This has led to another partisan battle on Capital Hill as Congress begins hashing out a compromise farm bill that includes cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), once known as Food Stamps. Republicans are looking for deeper reductions than their Democrat counterparts, stating that the program “has spiraled out of control as the economy continues to struggle.”They also claim that “the neediest will not go hungry” despite the reduced benefits.

However, doctors lobbying to save the program warn that, although results might not be seen immediately, “the poor will wind up in hospitals and clinics due to hunger and nutrition generated health problems, thus costing the government more in Medicare and Medicaid payments.”

In the meantime, the fight over restoring unemployment benefits continues.

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