Seniors and SNAP

Cross-sector research indicates that access to SNAP reduces healthcare spending, improves health, and allows low-income seniors to age in place with dignity.

The study is the first to examine the association between both hospital and nursing home utilization. Researchers studied 54,000 Maryland seniors on Medicaid and Medicare (dual eligibles). Individual-level medical claims data was cross-matched against the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enrollment data and used to analyze the impact of receiving the benefit on healthcare utilization and costs. The study found that:

  • Although they qualify, 49 percent of seniors on Medicaid are not enrolled in SNAP.
  • The average annual income for an older dual eligible was just $5,860.
  • Access to SNAP reduces a senior’s likelihood of admission into a hospital by 14 percent and a nursing home by 23 percent.
  • Every $10 increase in monthly SNAP benefits further reduced the odds of additional days in the hospital and shortened nursing home length of stay.
  • Increased access to SNAP delivers $2,100 in annual healthcare savings per senior enrolled.

The studies were led by Benefits Data Trust (BDT), in conjunction with the Maryland Department of Health, the Maryland Department of Human Services, The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, the Hilltop Institute at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Northwestern University, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


  1. Population Health Management: Does the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program affect hospital utilization among older adults? The case of Maryland
  2. BMC Geriatrics: Food assistance is associated with decreased nursing home admissions for Maryland’s dually eligible older adults
  3. Benefits Data Trust: Access to public benefits among dual eligible seniors reduces risk of nursing home and hospital admission and cuts costs
  4. Health Affairs: To improve health and reduce costs for low-income seniors, invest upstream
  5. Infographic