One spot of good news in the census data released Wednesday was on the health-care front: For the first time in three years, the share of Americans without health insurance declined, with the number of uninsured dropping by 1.3 million people from 2010 to 2011.
A major factor was an influx of newly insured young adults, many of whom benefitted from a provision in the 2010 health-care law requiring insurers to let parents keep adult children on their plans up to age 26.
But for most other age groups, the numbers largely reflected the continuation of a long-running shift away from private insurance toward government coverage — with Medicare and Medicaid picking up much of the slack left by the steady erosion of employment-based insurance.
For the fifth straight year, the portion of Americans on Medicaid, the joint federal-state program for the poor and disabled, increased, reaching 16.5 percent in 2011. The increase offered one more reminder of the sluggish pace of the recovery from the Great Recession, which technically ended in June 2009.