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August 30, 2007

Number of Americans without health insurance climbs

The number of Americans without health insurance rose last year from 44.8 million, or 15.3% of the population, to 47 million, or 15.8%, the Census Bureau reported today.

In a report on income, poverty and health insurance coverage, the bureau also said that the median household income -- the income level of Americans at dead center of the U.S. economy -- rose seven-tenths of one point to $48,201 last year, mainly because more people were working full time.

Analysts said the figures showed that the nation was still a long way from making it back to where it was before the last recession in 2001, and helped explain why working Americans were more pessimistic than the overall economic numbers might suggest they should be.

"The only people who have recovered their position from the previous expansion are those near the top of the income distribution. The rest of Americans are still waiting to recover the ground they lost," said Gary Burtless, a senior economist with the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Median household income peaked in 1999 at $49,244, then fell for five years before climbing back in 2005 and last year. But the improvement was not the product of higher earnings but more work. Real median earnings of men and women who worked full time declined in 2006. For men, the decline was 1.1%, to $42,300; for women it was 1.2%, to $32,500.

The nation's official poverty rate experienced its first significant decline of this decade, from 12.6% in 2005 to 12.3% last year.

Most of the problem with health insurance were traceable to the continued erosion of employer-based healthcare coverage. The percentage of people covered by employer plans decreased to 59.7% of the population in 2006, down from 60.2% in 2005.

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Posted by healthinsurance at August 30, 2007 10:46 AM