Health Insurance in the USA (Part 1)

This blog post is probably the first of several related to health insurance in the United States. The US Census Bureau has an amazing array of data related to health and health insurance, and I’m just trying to see what is available, what are the trends, and what are the characteristics of the insured and the not-insured.

The most recent and key report summarizing health insurance coverage is the US Census Bureau Report P60-257: “Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2015” (published September 2016) available on this Census Bureau web page. It’s a must read for anyone interested in health insurance, the health care debate, and the Affordable Care Act.

Here is a graphic from this report which shows the uninsured rate by detailed age, and how it’s changed between 2013 and 2015:


The highest uninsured rates are for 27 year old persons. The lowest uninsured? Persons age 75+. (There’s a lot more to learn. Please download and read the report!!)

As should be expected, there are multiple sources of information related to health insurance statistics. The Census Bureau has a one page PDF comparing four major datasets:

  1. Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC);
  2. American Community Survey (ACS);
  3. Survey of Income Program Participation (SIPP); and
  4. National Health Interview Survey (National Center for Health Statistics (NHIS).

The CPS first collected data on health insurance in 1987 [need citation and confirmation]. The benefit/use of the CPS is in examining income, employment and health insurance in a long running study, albeit for large geographic areas (US, regions, states.)

The ACS is the one dataset that provides data down to the neighborhood (census tract) level. Health insurance was first collected in the American Community Survey (ACS) in 2008. And the health insurance questions have not changed from 2008 to the present. That’s great, since we now have measures at the national, state, county, city, congressional district, and even the neighborhood level, between 2008 and 2015. This allows for before and after comparisons relative to the Affordable Care Act (signed March 23, 2010).

I’m not familiar with the SIPP or NHIS, but I’ll look into them in future blog posts.

Yet another US Census Bureau handout describes the various health statistics available. This is from the 2014 Health Datapalooza. ( (I’ve never heard of the word “datapalooza” before looking at health insurance data!!)

That’s about all for now. To be continued!


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