The Trump administration has quietly released a memo which proposes lowering the federal poverty line. If passed, this would affect how millions of Americans access healthcare, medication, food assistance, and basic needs assistance programs.
What the memo proposes
This proposal aims to change the way we determine the federal poverty line. For 2019, the poverty line is $12,140 for an individual and $25,100 for a family of four.
If passed, the proposal would drop the federal poverty line 2 percent over 10 years. This may not seem like much of a drop, but economic experts from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities agree that the poverty line is already too low. Evidence to back up this argument includes how many families slightly above the poverty line still struggle to have their basic needs met.
Decreasing the federal poverty line also simultaneously decreases how many people would be eligible for programs like Medicare Extra Help, CHIP, and SNAP benefits.
Who would be affected by the cuts?
It is estimated that the following number of people would suddenly be ineligible for benefits they’re currently receiving:
- 150,000 low-income Medicare beneficiaries would lose assistance in paying their Part B and Part D premiums with Extra Help.
- 300,000 children would lose health coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
- 200,000 people would lose Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
- 100,000 children would lose their free or reduced-price meals.
- 40,000 infants and young children would lose food and nutrition counseling.
Some pregnant women and mothers would also lose food assistance and breastfeeding counselling.
The Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy Program (Extra Help) assists low-income seniors with their Part D premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Nearly 11 million Americans receive benefits from Extra Help. If Trump’s proposal passes, hundreds of thousands of low-income Medicare beneficiaries would be expected to pay their full premiums, copays, and out-of-pocket expenses. Apply for Extra Help here.
Even though the proposal would be struck down by Congress almost immediately, the Trump administration has previously demonstrated that it is not averse to making large, structural changes with executive action.