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Report Shows Increasing SNAP Benefits Could Reduce Kentucky's Health Care Costs

Kentucky Center for Economic Policy

A new report says the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) improves health and reduces costs across Kentucky.

The report from the left-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy shows more than 500,000 Kentuckians get help buying groceries through SNAP.

Kentucky has the eighth-highest rate of food insecurity in the nation. KCEP says a growing body of research connects food insecurity to a higher rate of diabetes, chronic illnesses, and other negative health outcomes. 

For kids, food insecurity is related to anemia, asthma and behavioral issues. KCEP policy analyst Dustin Pugel said the money used in SNAP also helps support the state’s economy.

“For every dollar invested in SNAP, $1.50 is generated in the broader economy, and in hard times, it can be much higher.”

Pugel said Kentucky’s economy suffers under the weight of food insecurity. He said investing in SNAP could reduce the cost of health-care for the state.

“Because most of the folks who are food insecure are on public coverage, there’s actually some evidence that suggests the state could save money by making sure SNAP is as widely available as possible.”

Pugel said SNAP is a fully-funded federal program, as opposed to Medicaid, which is a shared program between the state and the federal government. According to the report, people participating in SNAP spend about 25 percent less on health care annually than similar non-participating adults. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Kentucky spent more than $850 million on food insecurity-related health care in 2016. KCEP recommends lifting the state-level ban on SNAP participation for Kentuckians who have completed jail time for a drug-related felony.

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