UPDATE 2-U.S. poverty rate flat, number of uninsured dips -Census
(New throughout, adds background on health reform)
Sept 17 (Reuters) - The percentage of Americans living in poverty remained steady last year at 15 percent after rising for several years in the wake of the recession, while the number of people without health insurance fell slightly to 48 million, U.S. government data released on Tuesday showed.
The Census Bureau in its annual report said about 46.5 million Americans were living in poverty last year, little changed from 46.2 million in 2011. The 2012 median U.S. income was $51,017, also statistically unchanged from the previous year.
The share of Americans without health insurance coverage - another key indicator economic of well-being - was 15.4 percent in 2012 compared with 15.7 percent in 2011.
About 48 million people were uninsured in 2012 compared with 48.6 million in 2011, a change the Census Bureau described as statistically insignificant. The number of people with health insurance increased to 263.2 million in 2012 from 260.2 million in 2011, the bureau said.
It was the second year in a row in which the rate of uninsured people has declined since President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010.
Brett O'Hara, chief of the health and disability statistics branch of the Census Bureau, said much of the decline in the uninsured in 2012 was due to an increase in enrollment in Medicare plans as the population aged and more people become eligible for the government health insurance program for older Americans. O'Hara also cited expansion of government-paid coverage for children.
The ACA requirement that insurance plans expand coverage to young adults had the most affect on the uninsured rate falling in 2011 and was not a factor in the decline in 2012, he said.
The U.S. government expects further declines in the uninsured rate ahead. About 9 million people are seen gaining insurance through the expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor in 2014, now planned in about half of U.S. states. Another 7 million people are expected to buy insurance in 2014 on subsidized, state-based public exchanges set up under the law.
Income-based subsidies are expected to drive those purchases. The Department of Health and Human Services said on Tuesday in a separate report that about 10.8 million people, or nearly half of those eligible to buy insurance on a state-based exchange, could receive a subsidy and pay less than $100 per month for insurance, depending on the plan they choose.
The uninsured rate for people ages 19 to 25 fell to 27.2 percent, down from 27.7 percent a year earlier, and for ages 26 to 34 year fell to 27.2 percent from 27.5 percent a year earlier.
Employment-based insurance coverage fell to 54.9 percent from 55.1 percent. The rate of people insured through government programs like Medicare and Medicaid rose to 32.6 percent from 32.2 percent.
The rate of uninsured by race fell the most for the Asian population to 15.1 percent from 16.8 percent in 2011. The uninsured rate for Hispanic people fell to 29.1 percent from 30.1 percent.
In 2012, the uninsured rate for households with annual income less than $25,000 was 24.9 percent compared with a 7.9 percent rate for those households with income of $75,000 or more, the report said.
In terms of income, the report found that the Western part of the United States had an increase in real median household income between 2011 and 2012, while other regions were not changed.
The number of children living in poverty was 16.1 million, about 21.8 percent, followed by people aged 18 to 64 at 13.7 percent. About 3.9 million people older than 65 were living in poverty.
The uninsured rate for children in poverty was 12.9 percent compared with 7.7 percent for children not in poverty, the census found.
The report is based on data from the 2013 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement.
(Reporting by Caroline Humer and Susan Heavey; Editing by Vicki Allen and David Gregorio)