Benefit Bulletin: New Poverty Measure Indicates More Older Americans Living In Poverty

Benefit Bulletin: New Poverty Measure Indicates More Older Americans Living In Poverty

The Census Bureau recently released a new poverty measure that is fueling controversy over how the federal government calculates federal poverty guidelines. The guidelines determine eligibility for a host of programs, including Medicaid. That program provides medical assistance, such as nursing home care for low-income people, including millions of the nation’s oldest, sickest and poorest seniors.

The new numbers indicate that the ranks of older Americans living in poverty are sharply higher under the new measure — 15.9%, rather than 9% — when using the official poverty yardstick. Unlike the official poverty measure, the revised measure takes into account out-of-pocket medical costs, including Medicare premiums, deductibles, expenses for prescription drugs, and geographical variations in the cost-of-living.

The new measure remains in the experimental stage and is not used to determine eligibility for benefits like Medicaid, or Medicare Extra Help for drug costs. But senior advocates, including TSCL, believe more seniors, including many Notch Babies in particular, would more easily qualify for needed low-income benefits and assistance should Congress require the use of the new measure.

TSCL continues to meet with Members of Congress and work for enactment of The Notch Fairness Act (H.R. 1001 and S. 118) introduced in the House by Representative Mike McIntyre (NC-7) and in the Senate by Senator David Vitter (LA). The bill would allow Notch Babies born from 1917 through 1926 a choice of $5,000 payable in four annual installments or an improved monthly benefit. Through December 31, 2011, the legislation had 36 co-sponsors.

Source: Current Population Survey (CPS), Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census Bureau, October 28, 2011.