Oct 23, 2007

SCHIP and Ohio's Poorest

SCHIP, established in title XXI of the Social Security Act, allows states to provide health care coverage to uninsured children up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). The stated intent of Congress when it established the program in 1997, was to expand coverage beyond those who were poor to "targeted low-income" children–-which meant those above Medicaid's eligibility requirements and in uninsured households up to 200 percent FPL.

Most recently the U.S. House and the Senate approved the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007 (CHIPRA), to reauthorize SCHIP. Under CHIPRA, eligibility would increase up to 300 percent FPL and would include expanded outreach to enroll those currently eligible but not enrolled. However, the act was vetoed by the President on October 3, 2007. The full text of CHIPRA is available here.
Note: in government definitions, generally “poor” is below the 100 percent FPL and "low-income/working poor" is 100 percent to 200 percent FPL. For more on poverty guidelines and measurements, click here.

Here’s a look at the Federal Poverty Levels are in terms of family size and household annual income:
People----100%FPL-----200%FPL-----300% FPL
----1-------$ 10,210-------$ 20,420-------$ 30,630
----2-------$ 13,690-------$ 27,380-------$ 41,070
----3-------$ 17,170-------$ 34,340-------$ 51,510
----4-------$ 20,650-------$ 41,300-------$ 61,950
----5-------$ 24,130-------$ 48,260-------$ 72,390
----6-------$ 27,610-------$ 55,220-------$ 82,830

When we look at this struggle over CHIPRA, we agree that no child should be without health insurance. At the same time, we are trying to understand why the country is not more focused on the basic needs of our poorest citizens first. We have many children and families living below poverty, and even with the help of public assistance programs, they are unable to meet their basic needs to live day to day. Shouldn’t our priority be to our poorest citizens first? Where is the time and energy to focus on those who have the least?

In Ohio alone, 130,000 children are on the cash assistance program, Ohio Works First (OWF), which is funded by the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (federal welfare dollars). A typical family of two on the Ohio Works First cash assistance program receives only $336 a month in cash and a maximum of $284 in Food Stamps. How many people do you know that can live on only $620 a month? This amount is $521 a month below poverty – around 50 percent of the FPL. This means that these families must make difficult choices between the necessities of food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and other basic needs.

In our report, Ohio’s Poorest Children, we analyzed the costs of the most basic needs for a typical family of two: housing, utilities, food, and transportation. Health care was not included since these families would be covered by Medicaid.

Monthly Cost of Basic Needs for Family of Two:
Rent $613; Utilities $227; Food $248; Transportation $250 = Total $1,338
Looking at the very basic needs, we came to a minimum of $1,338 per month. This total doesn’t even begin to factor in other basic needs such as: first aid supplies (band-aids, over the counter medicines), school fees, cleaning supplies, paper products (toilet paper, tissues), personal hygiene products (soap, shampoo, hair brush, tooth brushes, toothpaste, feminine products), clothing (socks, underwear, coats, shoes), diapers, unexpected emergencies and more.

(For an even more in depth analysis of poverty, take a look at our report:An in-depth look at the issues of poverty.

Shouldn’t meeting basic needs of our nation’s most needy people (children and adults) be the FIRST priority for funding at the federal, state and local levels?

[where: Athens, Ohio 45701]

Oct 22, 2007

"Rural poor a growing problem"

A recent Columbus Dispatch article lists a number of statistics about the growing problem of rural poverty in Ohio, a trend that is mirrored--if not magnified--in Athens County.

According to the article, one in five Ohio residents lives in poverty. In Athens County, more than one in four does. (The individual poverty rate is at more than 27 percent in Athens County.)

Another piece of data highlighted in the article is that statewide, more than one third of students qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. In Athens County in 2005, more than 40 percent of students qualified; in one school district the number was nearly 60 percent.

This is an excellent article for general information about the state of the rural poor in Ohio. For more information about the rural poor in Athens County, Ohio, see our Poverty Report.

[where: Athens, Ohio 45701]