Today, the Health Impact Project released initial findings of a health impact assessment (HIA) of the U.S. farm bill, which focused on proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The HIA considers changes proposed during the 112th Congress by the full Senate (S. 3240) and the House Agriculture Committee (H.R. 6083) to the way in which states determine eligibility and benefit levels for participation in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps). The changes in both bills were intended to reduce government spending and improve program integrity. Senator Reid reintroduced the Senate bill earlier this week for consideration by the Senate.
The analysis projects that between 1.7 million and 5 million people would lose their SNAP benefits if the proposed changes in the House were to take place. Compared with the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate of 1.8 million participants would lose SNAP benefits, our analysis suggests that far more people could be at risk.
To produce the most accurate estimates possible, the Health Impact Project used the recently updated dataset released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and relied on a model that includes information on participants’ assets.
The Health Impact Project worked with Mathematica Policy Research to analyze data from the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program quality control system and the Survey of Income and Program Participants (SIPP) to estimate impacts on eligibility, participation, and benefit levels. The result is new information on the number of people who would potentially be affected and the possible health implications for those program participants. The analysis uses the same data and models used by USDA to estimate changes in SNAP eligibility and participation. The project team’s analysis also draws upon a systematic review of the literature, along with findings from key informant interviews with a sample of state and local SNAP administrators to identify the impacts on program administration.
The goal of an HIA is to employ a flexible, data-driven approach that considers the health consequences of a prospective policy change and offers policy recommendations to maximize benefits and minimize any negative impacts on health. This analysis is intended to offer a new lens through which to view the policy options, by bringing solid evidence on the health implications to the discussion.
The Health Impact Project has made the initial findings available to Hill staff, a wide variety of decision makers, and experts to solicit feedback that will shape the final HIA. Circulating initial findings with stakeholders is an essential step in conducting an HIA. Similar to peer review, it improves the quality and specificity of the assessment and ensures that all relevant data have been considered.
The final HIA will include additional research and analysis based on feedback received on the initial findings document and will be released in spring 2013.