Health Insurance Data at the Census Bureau

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The Census Bureau collects health insurance data using two national surveys. The CPS ASEC is the official source of estimates used to allocate federal funding to states for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

The Census Bureau collects health insurance data using two national surveys:

Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP).

The surveys differ in the length and detail of the questionnaire, the number of households interviewed, the methodology used to collect and process the data, and, consequently, in the health insurance estimates produced. As a result, it is important to understand that different surveys and methods produce different results, and consequently when it is appropriate to use each survey or method.

The CPS is useful mainly for examining timely estimates of the insured and uninsured population at the national level.

The CPS is also useful as a source of estimates of the insured and uninsured populations at the state level.

The SIPP is useful mainly for examining the dynamics of health insurance coverage change over time.

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The CPS is a monthly survey of about 50,000 households conducted by the Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics mainly to estimate the unemployment rate. The Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) to the CPS, a survey of about 78,000 households, includes detailed health insurance questions asked of the household respondent for every household resident. Respondents are asked about health insurance coverage in the previous calendar year. The CPS ASEC provides a consistent historical time series at the national level and can also be used to examine state-level trends and differences (through multi-year averages), though the large sampling errors of state-level data limit its usefulness.

The CPS ASEC is perhaps the most widely used source of data on health insurance coverage in the United States.

The CPS ASEC is the official source of estimates used to allocate federal funding to states for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

The CPS ASEC provides reliable estimates of the net change in the number of uninsured people from one year to the next, but it does not show how long a given person remains uninsured, what percentage of the uninsured population remains uninsured in the following year, how many people obtain coverage, or any changes in a person's coverage within a given year.

These more dynamic measures of health insurance coverage are available from the SIPP. Unlike the CPS ASEC, which is not designed to follow the same respondents in consecutive years, the SIPP is a longitudinal survey which interviews the same respondents three times a year over the course of three to four years.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Contact the Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division at (301)763-3242 or visit http://www.census.gov for further information.

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