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2021 NHIS Early Release: Stable uninsured rate paired with increase in public coverage and decrease in private coverageOctober 14, 2021:
The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) has released quarterly estimates of health insurance coverage from January 2020-March 2021 from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) as part of the NHIS Early Release Program. These are some of the first estimates of health insurance coverage during 2021 from a major, federal government survey. This post compares uninsurance, private coverage, and public coverage rates in the first quarter of 2021 (Q1 2021) to those rates in the first quarter of 2020 (Q1 2020) and focuses on coverage by age group and federal poverty level (FPL).
Uninsured rates were stable among all age groups; Public and private coverage saw significant changes among all age groups
The uninsured rate remained stable in the first quarter of 2021, at an overall 9.5 percent for all ages, 11.3 percent for the non-elderly (age 0-64), 4.6 percent for children (age 0-17), and 13.8 percent for non-elderly adults (age 18-64).
All age groups except non-elderly adults saw increases in rates of public coverage. Public coverage increased 2.5 percentage points (PP) among all ages and for the non-elderly, increasing to 40.0 percent and 28.3 percent, respectively. Children saw an increase of 4.7 PP, rising to 45.6 percent with public coverage in Q1 2021.
Rates of private coverage fell 2.6 PP to 59.7 percent in Q1 2021 for those of all ages. Rates of private coverage were statistically unchanged for other specified age groups.
Coverage largely unchanged by poverty level
Rates of uninsurance were stable by poverty level in the first quarter of 2021. For those with incomes below 100% FPL, 18.4 percent were uninsured in Q1 2021. In other categories, 13.7 percent of those with incomes at 100%-199% FPL were uninsured, and 6.1 percent of those with incomes at or above 200% FPL were uninsured.
Rates of public coverage were statistically unchanged for those with incomes below 100% FPL (67.5 percent) and for those with incomes at or above 200% FPL (26.9 percent). Those with incomes 100%-199% FPL saw a 5.9 PP increase in rates of public coverage, rising to 62.3 percent in Q1 2021.
Rates of private coverage were stable by poverty level. Those with incomes below 100% FPL had a private coverage rate of 17.0 percent, those with incomes 100%-199% FPL had a private coverage rate of 32.2 percent, and those with incomes at or above 200% FPL had a private coverage rate of 77.1 percent.
A note on changes to the NHIS data collection methodology
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHIS changed to a telephone-only and then telephone-first with in-person follow up data collection methodologies beginning on March 19, 2020. Though this did not affect the Q1 2020 estimates, NCHS’s analysis indicates that the change to telephone-only data collection led to an “over-representation of affluent households,” which may have affected the Q1 2021 estimates. More information on changes to federal survey methodology due to the COVID-19 pandemic is available in the SHADAC brief, Changes in Federal Surveys Due to and During COVID-19.