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Number of uninsured hits record

After 4 years of increases, US poverty rate stabilizes

The number of people living in the nation without medical insurance rose 2.9 percent to a record 46.6 million in 2005 as health-care costs climbed.

The share of those in poverty was unchanged at 12.6 percent, following four straight years of increases, the Census Bureau said yesterday. Median household income rose for the first time since 1999. The US economy expanded 3.2 percent and added 2 million jobs in 2005.

Republicans and Democrats in Washington have failed to find solutions to soaring medical expenses, which rose three times as fast as wages in 2005, researchers say. Last year marked the fifth straight increase in the number who lack health benefits. States such as Massachusetts are working out their own plans to get insurance for more people.

``There is not any bipartisan vision from Washington for how you would cover a substantial number of people," said Robert Blendon, a professor of policy at the Harvard University School of Public Health in Boston. ``The parties are so far apart that they can't even talk about how to move this thing ahead."

The number of people lacking health insurance rose even with a 1.1 percent gain in median household income to $46,326 last year, the Census Bureau said. Incomes rose 2.9 percent in the Northeast and 1.5 percent in the West and were unchanged in the South and Midwest. New Jersey had the highest median income, $61,672, while Mississippi had the lowest, $32,938.

About 37 million people live in poverty in the United States, or one in eight, the Census Bureau said. The rate and number were statistically unchanged from 2004.

The Census considered a family of four poor if it had annual income of $19,971 or less.

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