Archive for September 8th, 2011

Fast Food Stamps Could Increase Health Insurance Rates

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Health insurance companies are closely monitoring proposed legislation to allow fast food restaurants to accept food stamps as a form of payment.  According to USA Today’s article “Restaurants want a piece of food stamp pie,” one-third more businesses accepted food stamps in 2010 than did in 2005.  Authors Jonathan Ellis and Megan Luther say that Yum! Brands is the driving force behind the push to get food stamps accepted in restaurants.  Their restaurants are not typically considered healthy so many health insurance companies worry that this could also lead to an increase in the already high obesity rates of the nation.  Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Long John Silvers are part of the YUM! Brands.

The current federal rules do not allow food stamps to be used for any food that is already prepared.  Florida, Arizona, California and Michigan already follow a provision from the 1970′s, however, which allows those who are disabled, homeless, or elderly to use their food stamps in restaurants.  Since $64.7 billion are given out each year in food stamps, it is easy to understand why restaurants want to get in on this business.  Public health advocates and insurers worry that this will negatively affect the  nation’s health and could even increase health insurance rates as obesity rates increase.  Inevitably there will be much more arguing over whether restaurants should be allowed to accept food stamps from those getting government aide.  Maybe there is a way to ensure that healthy food is the top choice, but that seems like a difficult thing to govern.