Medical costs are rapidly increasing in America. New data from the U.S. shows these costs are pushing millions of Americans, including seniors, into poverty.
The 2017 Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) shows that medical expenses were the largest contributor to increasing the number of Americans living in poverty. When medical expenses were accounted for, an additional 10.9 million people were classified as poor. The SPM shows that some 14 percent of those over age 65 are living in poverty. The poverty rate increased by 5.4 percentage points when medical expenses were subtracted from income.
But is that the whole story? Who are the seniors struggling?
The supplemental report is widely regarded as a more accurate snapshot of poverty in America than the official poverty line. The SPM defines poverty as the lack of economic resources for basic needs like food, housing, clothing and utilities, whiles the official poverty line is based solely on income.
The number of older impoverished older Americans is expected to rise for many years to come because by 2030, some 20 percent of the population will be age 65 and over.
The seniors who are living in poverty, says Kevin Prindiville, executive director of Justice in Aging, a senior advocacy group, include those who are struggling to make it by each month, and those who are one emergency away from being in serious financial trouble.
“If you look at that larger number, it’s a big group of seniors who are below 200 percent of the SPM,” Prindiville says. “It’s a lot of people living right on the edge of financial disaster at a time where there’s not a lot of other relief, options or opportunities for them.”
Of those living in extreme poverty, Prindiville notes that there are higher proportions of women and people of color.
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