Seniors Fare Much Worse Under New Poverty Measures, Census Says

The senior population suffers far more from poverty than previously thought, says a new U.S. Census report that includes supplemental poverty measures that reflect a more accurate portrayal of the poverty rate in America. Revised poverty measures show that the senior population is deeply affected by poverty in the U.S., at a rate of 16%, versus the previous measure of 9%.

The new measurement, released this week, considers a more accurate reflection of an individual’s economic needs including out-of-pocket health care costs, which were not previously accounted for. The senior population, which shows the greatest discrepancy of any population under the new guidelines, has experienced rising Medicare premiums, among other increasing health care costs.

“If broken down by groups, Americans 65 or older sustained the largest increase in poverty under the revised formula—nearly doubling to 15.9%, or 1 in 6—because of medical expenses that are not accounted for in the official rate,” noted an AP report. “Those include rising Medicare premiums, deductibles, and expense for prescription drugs.”



And the proportion of seniors in poverty could be poised for an increase, says the National Council on Aging, due to pending decisions by the Congressional Super Committee that could lead to more Medicare costs.

“Increasing Medicare copayments or deductibles would be devastating for low-income seniors who are already suffering with unaffordable costs to meet basic needs, without adequate help,” said Howard Bedlin, vice president of policy and advocacy at NCOA.


“We’ve seen more and more older adults falling behind and really struggling to catch up,” said Sandra Nathan, senior vice president for Economic Security at NCOA. “We have tested solutions that can help – increased access to benefits, employment and training assistance, better self management of health issues – but we need more systemic change from our elected leaders to help make these increased poverty numbers head back in the other direction.”

View the Census report.

Written by Elizabeth Ecker