In 2012, data on health insurance coverage were derived from answers to Question 16 in the American Community Survey, which was asked of all respondents. Respondents were instructed to report their current coverage and to mark "yes" or "no" for each of the eight types listed (labeled as parts 16a to 16h).
- Insurance through a current or former employer or union (of this person or another family member)
- Insurance purchased directly from an insurance company (by this person or another family member)
- Medicare, for people 65 and older, or people with certain disabilities
- Medicaid, Medical Assistance, or any kind of government-assistance plan for those with low incomes or a disability
- TRICARE or other military health care
- VA (including those who have ever used or enrolled for VA health care)
- Indian Health Service
- Any other type of health insurance or health coverage plan
Respondents who answered "yes" to question 16h were asked to provide their other type of coverage type in a write-in field.
Health insurance coverage in the ACS and other Census Bureau surveys define coverage to include plans and programs that provide comprehensive health coverage. Plans that provide insurance for specific conditions or situations such as cancer and long-term care policies are not considered coverage. Likewise, other types of insurance like dental, vision, life, and disability insurance are not considered health insurance coverage.
In defining types of coverage, write-in responses were reclassified into one of the first seven types of coverage or determined not to be a coverage type. Write-in responses that referenced the coverage of a family member were edited to assign coverage based on responses from other family members. As a result, only the first seven types of health coverage are included in the microdata file.
An eligibility edit was applied to give Medicaid, Medicare, and TRICARE coverage to individuals based on program eligibility rules. TRICARE or other military health care was given to active-duty military personnel and their spouses and children. Medicaid or other means-tested public coverage was given to foster children, certain individuals receiving Supplementary Security Income or Public Assistance, and the spouses and children of certain Medicaid beneficiaries. Medicare coverage was given to people 65 and older who received Social Security or Medicaid benefits.
People were considered insured if they reported at least one "yes" to Questions 16a to 16f. People who had no reported health coverage, or those whose only health coverage was Indian Health Service, were considered uninsured. For reporting purposes, the Census Bureau broadly classifies health insurance coverage as private health insurance or public coverage. Private health insurance is a plan provided through an employer or union, a plan purchased by an individual from a private company, or TRICARE or other military health care. Respondents reporting a "yes" to the types listed in parts a, b, or e were considered to have private health insurance. Public health coverage includes the federal programs Medicare, Medicaid, and VA Health Care (provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs); the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP); and individual state health plans. Respondents reporting a "yes" to the types listed in c, d, or f were considered to have public coverage. The types of health insurance are not mutually exclusive; people may be covered by more than one at the same time.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as other federal agencies, use data on health insurance coverage to more accurately distribute resources and better understand state and local health insurance needs.
The ACS began asking questions about health insurance coverage in 2008. Because 2008 was the first year of collection, the Census Bureau limited the number and type of data products to simple age breakdowns of overall, private, and public coverage status. The evaluation of the 2008 data suggested that the data were of good quality, so the Census Bureau expanded the data products to include estimates of the specific types of coverage along with estimates about social, economic, and demographic details for people with and without health insurance.
For the 2008 data released September 2009, there was no eligibility edit applied. The eligibility edit that was developed for the 2009 was applied to the 2008 data during spring 2010. New estimates of health insurance coverage with this data are available (http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/hlthins/hlthins.html
Limitation of the Data
The universe for most health insurance coverage estimates is the civilian noninstitutionalized population, which excludes active-duty military personnel and the population living in correctional facilities and nursing homes. Some noninstitutionalized GQ populations have health insurance coverage distributions that are different from the household population (e.g., the prevalence of private health insurance among residents of college dormitories is higher than the household population). The proportion of the universe that is in the noninstitutionalized GQ populations could therefore have a noticeable impact on estimates of the health insurance coverage. Institutionalized GQ populations may also have health insurance coverage distributions that are different from the civilian noninstitutionalized population, the distributions in the published tables may differ slightly from how they would look if the total population were represented.
Health insurance coverage was added to the 2008 ACS and so no equivalent measure is available from previous ACS surveys or Census 2000. Because of the addition of the eligibility edit to 2009 ACS health insurance, data users should be careful as to which 2008 ACS estimates they use to make comparisons. National, state, county and place-level 2008 1-year data incorporating the eligibility edit are available
); they are comparable to the 2009 estimates in American Fact Finder. Please see
for more information on the logical coverage (eligibility) edits.
Because coverage in the ACS references an individual's current status, caution should be taken when making comparisons to other surveys which may define coverage as "at any time in the last year" or "throughout the past year." A discussion of how the ACS health insurance estimates relate to other survey health insurance estimates can be found in A Preliminary Evaluation of Health Insurance Coverage in the 2008 American Community Survey