Low blow: Trump proposal would increase economic hardship

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Low blow: Trump proposal would increase economic hardship

Lowering the poverty measure would make it less accurate and cut people off basic supports

By - June 13, 2019

The Trump Administration has proposed making changes to how the federal poverty line is calculated which threatens to reduce or entirely take away food assistance, health care, and other forms of basic assistance from millions of people who struggle to put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads, and see a doctor when they need to.

Despite the fact the federal poverty line is far too low to reflect the actual costs of people being able the meet their basic needs, the proposed changes would use a lower measure of inflation to make adjustments to the poverty line. This would over time lower eligibility limits for crucial programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act’s premium tax credits.

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According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, if the changes were made:

  • More than 250,000 seniors and people with disabilities would lose or receive less help from Medicare’s Part D Low-Income Subsidy, meaning they would pay higher premiums for drug coverage and pay more out of pocket for prescription drugs.
  • More than 300,000 children would lose comprehensive coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and more than 250,000 adults would lose coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Medicaid expansion.
  • Millions of ACA marketplace consumers would receive lower premium tax credits, meaning they would pay higher premiums, and more than 150,000 would get less help with cost sharing, meaning their deductibles would increase.
  • Significant numbers of low-income households, primarily in working families, would lose eligibility for federal nutrition assistance programs including SNAP (food stamps); the WIC nutrition program for low-income women, infants and children; and free school meals.

The Trump administration appears to be choosing to consider a policy that would weaken basic assistance programs and thereby increase hardship, but with very little process or rationale.

The Administration has floated this proposal through “request for public comment.” However, it did not present any research or information about the adequacy of the poverty line itself as compared to the cost of basic necessities, or the possible impact for low income Americans who need access to food supports, health insurance, and other basics.

Rather than seeking to cut basic supports for hundreds of thousands of Americans, the Trump administration should be seeking to strengthen these programs to ensure they are reaching the people who need the help.

Submit your comment against this proposal by Friday, June 21.

About Julie Watts, Deputy Director

Julie helps to implement the Budget & Policy Center’s strategic vision and oversees a range of research, policy, and external relations initiatives.

Read more about Julie