The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a
federal program to address food insecurity in the United States. In 2014, the SNAP
provided $70 billion in nutrition support to 46.5 million families and
children living in 22.7 million American households.
According to the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, SNAP benefits reduced the incidence of
extreme poverty by 13.2% and child poverty by 15.5%
between 2000 and 2009. Now, researchers from the University of Missouri
have found that SNAP benefits also may be beneficial in reducing visits
to the emergency room, saving money for families, health care facilities
‘Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) may be beneficial in reducing visits to the emergency room, saving money for families, health care facilities and taxpayers.’
"According to prior research, the average medical costs associated
with hypoglycemia requiring medical treatment was $1,186 per ER visit
with costs often paid by Medicaid for individuals in extreme poverty,"
said Colleen Heflin, professor of public affairs. "Public safety net
programs do not operate in silos; health cannot be addressed without
attending to proper nutrition. Understanding how programs interact can
improve policy programs while controlling costs."
Heflin, Leslie Hodges, a doctoral candidate in the Truman School of
Public Affairs, and Peter Mueser, professor of economics in the College
of Arts and Science, used data from the Missouri SNAP and Medicaid
programs to identify the benefit size of SNAP and the timing of ER
The researchers then analyzed the relationship between receipt
of SNAP benefits and health care utilization. The analysis found a
strong relationship between the size of the SNAP benefit and ER visits
for hypoglycemia. The researchers found that a $100 increase in SNAP
benefits decreased the likelihood of an ER visit for hypoglycemia by
"This research suggests more generous SNAP benefits could help
low-income families manage their household budgets," Hodges said. "The
SNAP program could help families avoid fluctuations in the quality and
quantity of food that might result in low blood sugar severe enough to
require treatment at the ER."