The US poverty rate is at the lowest it has been since 2001 and middle-class income has hit a historical high, the Census Bureau reported.
In 2018, 11.8% of Americans lived under the poverty line just slightly higher than the 11.7% in 2001, prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.
The median US income for last year was $63,000, a boost that has come from record levels of employment, often adding a second wage in households. The positive numbers, however, also point to the fact that household income has just modestly surpassed that of 2007, more than a decade after the start of the global financial crisis.
From 2017 to 2018 the American economy added 2 million people to the ranks of those without medical insurance, the first rise in the uninsured population since former President Barack Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act. A total of 27.5 million of 330 million Americans are believed to be without any medical insurance.
The uninsured rate rose to 8.5%, which is approximately half the rate of 2010 (16.5%). From 2011 to 2017, an average of 400,000 Americans gained access to health insurance cover.
In an electoral year, the hike in the number of the uninsured adds to the general climate of political polarisation. Republicans have argued that Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as ‘Obamacare’, was always flawed and its influence is waning, while Democrats state that defunding and dismantling the plan is adversely affecting the public’s health.
Republicans have said that Obamacare caused insurance premiums to surge, pushing people off the market unless they qualify for federal subsidies. The counter-argument from the Democrats is that that the major tax cuts for higher incomes, which was adopted by a Republican-led Congress at the end of 2017, eliminated financial penalties for those who fail to take health insurance and removed the motivation for low-pay employees to contribute part of their salaries to be insured.