Struggling families at risk under proposed changes to federal poverty measure

By the CDHP team

The annual federal poverty guidelines set income eligibility limits for a range of programs important to kids’ and adults’ oral health, including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and tax credits for purchasing private coverage on the health insurance marketplace. These guidelines are based on the Official Poverty Measure (OPM), a level annually modified for inflation. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has called for comments on a proposal to change how the OPM’s inflation adjustment is calculated. Such a change could have dire consequences for millions of children and families struggling to get by every day. If enacted, it would reduce the rate at which the OPM is adjusted each year, meaning that fewer people would be eligible for medical and dental coverage in addition to other critical supports like housing and food assistance.

CDHP stands firmly opposed to any changes that would make it even more difficult for families to get the services they need to thrive.

Currently, the OPM is adjusted according to general inflation using the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U). The Administration is proposing to move to a different inflation index, Chained CPI, which would result in smaller adjustments to the poverty line in response to inflation. As the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families explains, this would “impose an automatic cut to eligibility” for all populations, including children, and this cut would increase over time. Put simply, fewer and fewer people would qualify for public programs, despite estimates that lower income households already feel the impact of inflation more so than the general population.

Analysis suggests that more than 300,000 kids, as well as some people who are pregnant, would lose Medicaid or CHIP coverage. These programs ensure dental benefits for children, opening the door to the care they need to have good oral health. Without coverage, kids are less likely to have their dental needs met -- risking a child’s ability to grow up healthy and be best prepared to reach their dreams.

Given the fact that we are already seeing troubling increases in the number of uninsured parents and children, CDHP stands firmly opposed to any changes that would make it even more difficult for families to get the services they need to thrive. We will be joining our colleagues across the country in speaking out against this harmful proposal and encourage all advocates for children and families to do the same. Public comments on the OPM proposal can be submitted through June 21.

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