WASHINGTON DC (NEXSTAR) – The number of Americans living in poverty has finally gone down to the level it was before the Great Recession of 2008. That’s the word from the annual U.S. Census Bureau poverty report.
However, if you live in the South, you might wonder about those figures.
That’s because it was the only region to not see a decline in poverty.
Policy experts say these issues go hand in hand, and states need to step up.
“The thing that moves more people into poverty is medical expenses,” said Jane Adams, Senior Domestic Policy Analyst for Bread for the World. “Last year, it moved eight million people into poverty.”
Adams said that’s why many voters, and 2020 presidential candidates, continue to focus on health care.
“What they want is access to health care,” Elizabeth Warren said.
“I think the Obamacare worked,” Joe Biden said.
“Providing health care to every man, woman and child,” said Bernie Sanders.
Adams said the newly released annual Census poverty report shows the overall poverty rate has dropped to the levels before the 2008 recession.
But the report also shows the first decline in health insurance since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
The hardest-hit area is the South where the poverty rate is also the highest and getting worse, not better.
“When you don’t have access to affordable health care and when you don’t have access to good doctors and good health insurance, you are more likely to be food insecure, you’re more likely to really struggle to make ends meet,” said Adams.
The report shows millions of Americans lost access to Medicaid, not private insurance.
“These are people who are really vulnerable, who have complex medical disorders or who are very, very poor children,” Adams said.
To get coverage levels back on track, Adams said many of these states need to be more proactive in the insurance enrollment process and expand Medicaid.
At the federal level, Adams said Congress should pass legislation to lower health care costs, but that’s not likely to happen until after the 2020 election.