Medicare for All Would Cut Poverty by Over 20 Percent

(JACOBIN) Matt Bruenig, February 9, 2020

The Census released its annual income, poverty, and health insurance statistics earlier this week. The summary reportshows that 8 million of the nation’s 42.5 million poor people would not be poor if they did not have to pay medical out-of-pocket (MOOP) expenses like deductibles, co-pays, coinsurance, and self-payments. Medicare for All (M4A) virtually eliminates these kinds of payments, meaning that these 8 million people (18.8 percent of all poor people) would find themselves lifted over the poverty threshold if M4A were enacted.

This head-count poverty measure actually understates how significant MOOP expenses are to poverty in this country. According to this same data, in 2018, the total poverty gap stood at $175.8 billion. This figure is derived by calculating how far each poor family’s income is below the poverty line and then adding those calculations together to get an aggregate amount. MOOP expenses make up $38.2 billion of that total gap, meaning that Medicare for All would cut poverty by about 22 percent.