September 20, 2018

U.S. Household Income Rises to Pre-Recession Levels, Prompting Cheers and Questions

The stagnation was striking because of the increase in the share of Americans with full-time jobs. Such an increase would ordinarily be expected to produce a rise in health insurance coverage rates. Robert Greenstein, the president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the likely explanation was the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act. Otherwise, he said, “we probably would have seen further progress in 2017.”

Turmoil in health insurance markets as Congress considered proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act may have also created uncertainty. “Between 2016 and 2017, we saw that the uninsured rate decreased in three states, and it increased in 14 states,” said Edward Berchick, a demographer at the Census Bureau. “This was the first time since 2013 that we saw an increase in any state.”

The effect of opposition to the Affordable Care Act, passed by Democrats during the Obama administration, is most clearly visible in states that declined to expand Medicaid.

In states that did not expand Medicaid, 16.7 percent of the population had no health insurance coverage at any time during 2017, up from 16.1 percent in 2016. By contrast, in states that chose to expand Medicaid, there was no significant decrease in coverage. The Census Bureau said 9.4 percent of people age 19 to 64 had no health insurance coverage, roughly the same as last year.

The states with the highest proportion of uninsured residents were Texas (17.3 percent) and Oklahoma (14.2 percent), followed by Alaska, Georgia, Florida and Wyoming, all with more than 12 percent of their residents lacking coverage. Massachusetts, which has been working systematically to expand coverage for more than a decade, had the lowest uninsured rate last year, with 2.8 percent of residents uninsured. Five other states — Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Vermont — as well as the District of Columbia had uninsured rates of less than 5 percent.

In both expansion states and non-expansion states, the uninsured rate for working-age adults has declined significantly over the last decade. Most of the decline has taken place since 2013, as provisions of the Affordable Care Act expanding coverage took effect in 2014.

Larry Levitt, a senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said the new census data suggested that “the historic progress in reducing the number of people uninsured has stalled.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/12/us/politics/median-us-household-income-increased-in-2017.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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