Raise Your Voice! Don't Shrink the Poverty Line To Kick People Off Medicaid

Sometimes a wonky, technical change by the federal government can have life and death consequences for millions of Americans and thousands of West Virginians. 

One of those critical changes was proposed on May 7 in the Federal Register. The Trump administration proposed a change to the Census Bureau’s Official Poverty Measure (OPM) calculation that sets the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The suggested change is to switch the current inflation rate used to calculate the OPM to a calculation with a lower annual adjustment.

Did I lose you yet?  

The bottom line is that the Federal Poverty Guidelines are already too low, and this change makes then even lower.

The current official Federal Poverty Line for 2019 is set at $12,490 for a single individual (just $1,040 per month) and $25,750 for a family of four.

 If the Federal Poverty Guidelines shrink lower, then fewer low-income individuals and families will be able to qualify for programs that help that stretch low wages to meet basic needs. The proposed change to the inflation factor will lower these Guidelines year after year and define more and more individuals and families “out” of poverty with no change to their actual economic standing.

This seemingly “technical” change will ripple across an entire spectrum of services, with life and death consequences. 

This proposed change would reduce access to income-based health programming including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the premium tax credit and subsidy assistance in the state health insurance marketplaces, and Medicare premium assistance for low-income elders and people with disabilities.

In West Virginia, who relies on these income-based programs and could be at risk?

  • Our neighbors, friends and family who relied on Medicaid and CHIP in March 2019 (529,000 West Virginians)
  • In West Virginia, Medicaid covers:
    • 1 in 4 adults under age 65
    • 3 in 5 low-income adults
    • 1 in 2 children
    • 3 in 4 nursing home residents
    • 1 in 2 people with disabilities
  • Older adults and people with disabilities who are on Medicare and also eligible for Medicaid (“dual eligible”) that help pay for their Medicare coverage (89,000 West Virginians)
  • People who rely on state health insurance marketplace advance premium tax credit and cost-sharing assistance (21,000 West Virginians).
  • Low-income pregnant women who rely on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which services more than 40,000 West Virginian moms and infants


It is incredibly important to push back on this proposal. Each of us have the right to comment by June 21 and it only takes a few minutes to make your voice heard. The Federal Register has a link to comment by email and the national Coalition on Human Needs has a portal to help concerned citizens submit comments in opposition to shrinking the Federal Poverty Guidelines.


West Virginians Together for Medicaid