HHS Delays 2010 HHS Federal Poverty Rate Update To March 1, 2010

Rates Often Impact Federal Low Income & Other Charity Programs

By Cynthia Marcotte Stamer

Health care, educational and other charity care and other organizations participating in federal programs that determine eligibility based on the Federal Poverty Rate may continue to rely on 2009 Federal Poverty Rates until at least March 1, 2010.  However these federal program participants and other organizations and programs that otherwise rely on Federal Poverty Rates for purposes of making eligibility, sliding scale fees or other determinations will want to watch for the updated guidelines and make appropriate updates as necessary when the new guidelines are released over the next few months.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) usually issues annual updates to the Federal Poverty Rates in January.  However, HHS announced January 22, 2010 that its annual update of Federal Poverty Rates for 2010 will be delayed until at least March 1, 2010.   As a result of this announcement, 2009 Federal Poverty Rates will remain in effect for the time being until at least March 1, 2010.

Health care organizations and a wide range of other organizations and programs use the Federal Poverty Guidelines to decide program eligibility or fees.  Many federal programs use the federal poverty guidelines as one criterion for federal program eligibility.  For example, the Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance (SCHIP) programs determine eligibility largely on the basis of whether the applicant’s income is below the federal poverty guidelines.  Other programs determine financial eligibility based on a percentage or multiplier of the federal poverty guidelines (for example, 125 percent of federal poverty guidelines).  In addition, the federal poverty guidelines are used in the immigration context, such as Form I-864 Affidavit of Support.

Under the 2009 Federal Poverty Guidelines continued in force by the HHS announcement, the applicable income amounts under the 2009 Federal Poverty Guideline in the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C. are as follows:

2009 Poverty Guidelines for the 48 Contiguous States and the District of Colombia* 
Number of Family Members Poverty Guideline Income
1 $10,830
2 $14,570
3 $18,310
4 $22,050
5 $25,790
6 $29,530
7 $33,270
8 $37,010
8+ Add $3,740 for each additional person.
* Alaska and Hawaii have slightly higher poverty guidelines.


In addition to determining eligibility for purposes of many federal programs, many health care and social services organizations, especially non-profit organizations, utilize a sliding fee scale or fee waiver based on the federal poverty guidelines.  In addition, many health care organizations base their charitable care policies on the federal poverty guidelines.  For programs where the use of federal poverty guidelines is optional, organizations may want to evaluate whether business or operational needs or other considerations merit any adjustment or use of alternative standards at this time.

While use of the federal poverty guidelines is not mandated by law except by federally funded programs, the Joint Commission as part of its accreditation and survey process may ask whether the organization has utilized the most recent update to the federal poverty guidelines in its sliding scale or fee waiver policies.  Therefore, hospitals and other organizations subject to Joint Commission or other accreditation relying on the Federal Poverty Guidelines should review their charity care or fee waiver policies and monitor for planned updates.

Solutions Law Press author and Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care practitioners and other businesses and business leaders to establish, administer, investigate and defend health care fraud and other compliance and internal control policies and practices to reduce risk under federal and state health care and other laws. You can get more information about the CTT Health Care Practice and Ms. Stamer’s health industry experience here.

If you need assistance with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402or another Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney of your choice.

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in other updates on HEAT activities such as the following:

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©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved. 

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