The National Health Law Program submitted comments urging the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to reject a proposal that would lower the federal poverty line. For the last several decades, OMB has used the Consumer Price Index-Urban inflation measure to update the Official Poverty Measure each year. Yet, while the current inflation rate already underestimates what low-income families need to get by, OMB is considering several different inflation measures that would result in an even smaller cost-of-living adjustment each year.
Lowering the poverty line would result in a less-accurate measure of families struggling to afford basic needs. It is also likely to reduce eligibility for Medicaid and other federal health, nutrition, and basic assistance programs.
Before moving forward with a change to the inflation measure, OMB must conduct a detailed policy analysis and clarify how a new threshold impacts determination of poverty guidelines. OMB should publish its findings and give the public an opportunity to comment on the likely consequences for uninsured rates, reduced access to health care, and other forms of hardship.