Timely and accurate estimates of the number of people who do not have health insurance coverage are important for understanding trends in health insurance coverage and the impacts of policy changes that affect health insurance. Estimates of the number of people who are uninsured are available from several different sources. This brief presents trends in national estimates of uninsurance from four federal surveys, presents the most recent available state-level estimates from these surveys, and describes the main reasons for variation in the estimates across the different surveys. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SURVEYS USED TO ESTIMATE THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WITHOUT HEALTH INSURANCE. This brief compares four federal surveys that are used to estimate the level of uninsurance in the United States. These include: (1) The U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey (CPS): The CPS Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) collects data on health insurance coverage. The CPS estimates of health insurance coverage are among the most commonly cited estimates. The estimates date back to 1987, and are used to monitor both state and national trends in health insurance coverage. (2) The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS): Sponsored by the National Center for Health Statistics, the NHIS includes questions about health insurance coverage, health care utilization and access, health conditions and behaviors, and general health status, in addition to demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. The NHIS has been conducted annually since 1957; annual health insurance coverage estimates are available beginning with 1998. (3) The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey--Household Component (MEPS-HC): The MEPS-HC is sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and consists of several interviews with the same respondents over two full calendar years. Conducted since 1996, the MEPS-HC collects data on health status and health conditions, health insurance coverage, access to and utilization of health care services, medical expenditures, and various demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. (4) The American Community Survey (ACS): Conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, the ACS is an annual household survey that replaced the decennial census long form questionnaire. A question on health insurance coverage was added to the ACS in 2008.
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