Understanding the Federal Poverty Level

Federal Poverty Level

The US Department of Health and Human Services issues annual guidelines defining the poverty level for the United States, which is called the Federal Poverty Level or FPL. A percentage of the FPL is used to determine eligibility for many social service programs, including Medicaid.

Medicaid eligibility is set at different FPLs for different populations; the table at the bottom of this page lists out incomes at 100% FPL. In 2014, at 133% FPL, a Colorado family of four will qualify for Medicaid if they make less than $31,322 per year. As a comparison, the US Census Bureau lists Colorado’s median income for a family of four at $80,717 per year. That’s nearly a $50,000 dollar difference!

So, what does a budget for a family of four making about $32,000 a year look like? See the sample budget below and think about how the median Colorado family’s costs compare to the family’s that qualify for Medicaid.

What’s missing? Health care

Health care typically takes up about 5% of a family’s budget. Unfortunately, health insurance, a necessity, would bust this family’s already tight budget by a minimum of $1,600 per year.

Medicaid makes health care affordable and accessible for this family who would otherwise not have secure access to the services they need and protects them from the financial dangers of being uninsured.

Below are some other types of individuals who qualify for Medicaid. Again, think about what an annual budget looks like for these individuals and how the security of having access to healthcare greatly improves their lives.


Family Size
Yearly Income
Monthly Income
Hourly Income
• •
• • •
• • • •