Doctors Offer Plan to Save Taxpayers $383 Billion, Improve America's Health

The Physicians Committee
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NEWS RELEASE July 29, 2011
Doctors Offer Plan to Save Taxpayers $383 Billion, Improve America's Health
Neal Barnard, M.D.

Five-Step Proposal Would Save Food Stamps, Slash Subsidies for Unhealthy Foods

WASHINGTON— As Congress and the president wrangle over the debt ceiling, the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is urging lawmakers to enact five painless cuts to federal food and agricultural programs that could save American taxpayers $383 billion over 10 years—and reduce obesity rates and health care costs for decades to come.

In a plan presented to Congress July 28, PCRM experts propose eliminating the agricultural direct payment program, crop insurance, and agricultural pollution clean-up programs, since these programs directly or indirectly support the production and consumption of meat, cheese, sugar, and other unhealthful foods.

The proposal also recommends reconfiguring the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp program, to provide incentives to promote fruits and vegetables and exclude processed meat, candy, and other junk food items from the program.

“Cutting subsidies for cheeseburgers and sodas will mean healthier people and a huge savings in the process,” says PCRM president and nutrition researcher Neal Barnard, M.D. “SNAP is under threat when more Americans than ever need help. These reforms save SNAP and will serve more people for less money with healthier food.”

The plan’s five major policy changes will save nearly $400 billion in a decade:

Policy Change

Savings (Over 10 Years)

End Direct Agribusiness Payments

$50 billion

Privatize Crop Insurance

$70 billion

Make Factory Farms Clean Up Their Own Waste

$9 billion

Reform SNAP (Food Stamps)

$240 billion

Reform Commodity Foods Purchases

$14 billion

Total short-term savings:

$383 billion

“Low-income individuals have a right to healthful food,” Dr. Barnard says. “Eliminating junk food from SNAP would encourage grocers to make space for healthful foods like fruits and vegetables, which would cut costs and help eliminate food deserts. It’s demeaning to create a food environment in which economically disadvantaged people don’t find healthful choices.”

The report also recommends prioritizing healthful commodity purchases for school meal programs to fight childhood obesity.

For a copy of the full report or to speak with Dr. Barnard, contact Vaishali Honawar at 202-527-7339 or vhonawar@pcrm.org.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.