Sep 16, 2019

Medical costs are driving millions of people into poverty

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Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Health care expenses forced 8 million Americans into poverty in 2018, according to the Census Bureau.

The big picture: That's actually an improvement from the past several years, when an annual average of 11 million people fell into poverty because of medical costs — a reflection of the country's expensive system.

How it works: The Census Bureau tracks how various social programs and daily expenses influence poverty rates.

  • Social Security, SNAP benefits and housing subsidies are among the most effective anti-poverty programs.
  • But year after year, medical expenses remain "the largest contributor to increasing the number of individuals in poverty," according to the Census Bureau.
  • Most people who have insurance and who make less than 150% of the federal poverty level don't have enough liquid assets to cover a $1,500 deductible.

The bottom line: People who don't have insurance have the highest risk of falling into poverty, due to the high prices of drugs and procedures.

  • But even working Americans who have coverage are facing bleaker financial futures because employers have shifted more health care costs onto their shoulders.

Go deeper: Other developed countries limit out-of-pocket medical expenses

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 5,463,392 — Total deaths: 344,503 — Total recoveries — 2,195,325Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 1,653,904 — Total deaths: 97,948 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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