2015 Federal Poverty Levels
Federal officials recently released the 2015 Federal Poverty Income Guidelines, better known as the federal poverty levels (FPL). States and the federal government use the guidelines to determine eligibility for many public assistance programs, such as Medicaid, BadgerCare and child care subsidies.
The following three tables show how the new poverty guidelines affect income eligibility limits for various programs and different families sizes. In addition to showing the annual income figures, there are tables converting those into monthly and hourly income.
The guidelines are adjusted each year, based on inflation. This year the poverty level is up 1.5% for a family of three. At that family size, the poverty level is now $20,090, and it increases $4,160 for each additional family member.
One of the many places where the guidelines are relevant is in the ongoing debate over whether Wisconsin should use the federal funding provided by the health care reform law to expand BadgerCare eligibility for parents and childless adults. That federal funding would pay almost all of the cost of covering childless adults below 138% of FPL.
Based on the new 2015 poverty level figures, closing the gap in BadgerCare seems to be a very easy choice, since it would assist adults meeting the following modest limits on income:
- For a single person the upper limit in 2015, which is now just $11,770 per year, would be increased to $16,243. That’s equivalent to $7.81 per hour at a 40 hour per week job.
- For a married couple without children an income limit of 138% of FPL would raise the ceiling to $21,983, which amounts to 40 hours per week at $10.57 per hour. The current limit for a couple (based on the 2015 FPL) is just $15,930.
The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families has incorporated the 2015 poverty levels into an updated infographic showing the income ranges to be eligible for BadgerCare and Marketplace insurance subsidies. That document is available in both English and Spanish.
Hourly (Assumes 2080 hours per year.)
Significance of Various Poverty Levels
For the two columns marked with an asterisk (relating to insurance coverage through the Marketplace), the new 2015 FPL levels don’t go into effect until November 2015. For the others (relating to BadgerCare, Wisconsin Shares and W-2), the new 2015 FPLs take effect in February or soon thereafter.
100% = The maximum income limit for parents and childless adults to be eligible for BadgerCare (reduced from 200% on 4/1/14), and the minimum income limit to be eligible for financial assistance in the insurance Marketplace.
- 115% = The maximum income limit for participation in the Wisconsin Works W-2 program.
138% = The minimum Medicaid ceiling for a state to qualify for the significantly enhanced federal Medicaid funding. (Wisconsin has not chosen to expand Medicaid to this level.)
200% = The income ceiling to be eligible for Wisconsin Shares child care subsidies, and approximately the threshold for charging premiums for children enrolled in BadgerCare (which actually begins at 201% of FPL).
250%* = The maximum income to be eligible for federal cost-sharing assistance (that helps pay for co-pays and deductibles) for insurance plans obtained through the Marketplace.
306% = The maximum income limit for children to be eligible for BadgerCare.
400%* = The maximum income to be eligible for federal premium assistance for insurance plans obtained through the Marketplace. (People at all income levels are eligible to purchase insurance through the Marketplace without financial assistance).