Census: Medical Expenses Put 10.6 Million Americans in Poverty

That's more than food stamps or unemployment benefits lifted out. 
More
Reuters

Here's a tidbit to remember next time you're in an argument about U.S. healthcare: according to a new Census report, medical expenses currently leave more than 10.6 million Americans in poverty, according to a fairly recent innovation known as the Supplemental Poverty Measure.

The SPM is designed to provide a better detailed sense of America's economic wellbeing than the official poverty rate by accounting for more of the benefits people receive through government welfare programs (think food stamps), as well as financial burdens like unusually high housing costs and out of pocket medical expenses.

The official and unofficial poverty rates are actually fairly close to one another overall—15.1 percent and 16 percent, respectively. But the unofficial rate gives us a useful perspective on what specifically keeps families in or out of poverty. As shown on the graph below,  Social Security alone knocks about 8.5 percentage points off the unofficial poverty rate. Food stamps shave about 1.6 percentage points off.  On other hand, medical expenses, charmingly referred to as MOOP down below, actually add 3.4 percentage points onto it. Multiply that by 311 million Americans in 2012, and you get around 10.6 million who have been left broke by premiums, co-pays, and doctor's bills. 

Jump to comments
Presented by

Jordan Weissmann is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In