Notes on the news:
- Last week's U.S. Census Bureau figures on poverty and the medically uninsured were, to say the least, sobering.
They showed that an additional 2.6 million people fell below the poverty line in 2010, meaning that nearly one in six Americans is now considered poor. The total of 46.2 million in poverty is the highest number in the 52 years the Census Bureau has been collecting such statistics.
Another depressing finding was that real median incomes declined by 7.1% from a 1999 peak of $53,252. Despite increased poverty, the percentage of U.S. residents lacking health insurance remained at 16.3%. Still, the total number of uninsured rose from the previous year by almost 1 million to 49.9 million.
Not surprisingly, the sick economy pushed down employer-based coverage. The Census Bureau reported that the percentage of people with coverage through work declined to 55.3% in 2010. Some 1.5 million fewer people were enrolled in employer plans compared with 2009.
The situation might have been worse, but government insurance plans such as Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program picked up some of the slack.
Here's another interesting item: The population of uninsured young adults—ages 18 to 24—actually declined by more than 2 percentage points. Analysts say the most likely explanation for the addition of more than half a million young people with coverage is the provision (a popular one, it seems) of the Affordable Care Act that allows people up to age 26 to stay on their parents' health plans.
Put all these findings together with unemployment numbers that linger around 10% and the solution to the uninsured problem becomes clear. Congress will have to extend the provision so children can remain on their parents' insurance until the whole family qualifies for Medicaid or Medicare. The eligibility date of the latter could be 67 or more under some of the deficit-reduction proposals floating around, so the kids may be living at home for a long time.