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Current Population Survey Shows 2020 National Uninsured Rate Stable, Rising in Three StatesSeptember 22, 2021:
On September 14, the U.S. Census Bureau released 2020 national health insurance estimates from the Current Population Survey along with public use microdata. These data will serve as one of very few sources of information on 2020 state-level health insurance as the U.S. Census Bureau will not release its normal set of 1-year estimates from the 2020 American Community Survey (ACS), due to impacts of the pandemic that resulted in nonresponse bias and substantially lower response rates.
Given its large sample size, SHADAC typically relies on the ACS to study state and sub-state (e.g., county-level or state-level coverage by race) health insurance trends and posts detailed state estimates on State Health Compare. However, because the ACS data are not being released as usual this year, we recommend that analysts use the CPS, and have posted 2020 estimates from this survey on State Health Compare for analysts and policymakers that need 2020 state-level information on coverage. Differences between the ACS and CPS and considerations for their use are summarized here.
This post presents highlights from the 2020 state-level coverage estimates on State Health Compare and compares 2020 estimates to 2018, a pre-COVID baseline unaffected by pandemic-related data collection challenges.
Uninsurance was stable nationally and in most states
In 2020, 8.6 percent of Americans (nearly 28 million people) were uninsured all year, statistically unchanged from a pre-pandemic baseline of 8.5% in 2018. Rates of uninsurance were unchanged in most states, though three states (Arizona, Missouri, and Tennessee) saw increases and five states (Florida, Maryland, Oregon, Vermont, and Virginia) experienced decreases. Tennessee had the largest increase at 4.1 percentage points (PP) (11.4 percent vs. 7.3 percent), and Virginia had the largest decrease at 3.3 PP (5.5 percent vs. 8.8 percent).
More Americans had public coverage and fewer had private coverage
The percent of Americans with public coverage at some point during 2020 increased to 32.8 percent from 32.3 percent in 2018. This equates to 2.4 million more people with public coverage at some point in 2020 as compared to 2018. At the state level, seven states had increases in rates of private coverage (Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wyoming), and only Virginia had a decrease in rates of private coverage. Of these states, Maryland had the largest increase in public coverage at 6.2 PP (31.2 percent vs. 25.0 percent) and Virginia had the largest and only decrease in public coverage at 3.4 PP (25.1 percent vs. 28.5 percent).
The percent of Americans with private coverage at some point during 2020 fell to 58.6 percent from 59.2 percent in 2018, which represents 934,000 fewer people with private coverage. In most states, however, the percent with private coverage remained stable. Just two states (Virginia and West Virginia) saw increases in private coverage, and five states (Colorado, Delaware, Massachusetts, Ohio and Tennessee) saw decreases. Of these states, Virginia had the largest increase at 6.7 PP (69.5 percent vs. 62.7 percent), and Tennessee had the largest decrease at 7.1 PP (54.7 percent vs. 61.7 percent).
2020 coverage estimates available on State Health Compare
In addition to state-level estimates by both broad coverage types (Insured, Private, Public, and Uninsured) and more detailed (Employer, Individual, Medicaid/CHIP, Medicare, and Uninsured), state-level coverage estimates are available by age group (0-18, 0-64, 19-64, and 65+) and health status (Good/Very Good/Excellent and Fair/Poor). Estimates by poverty level will likely be forthcoming. However, coverage estimates by race/ethnicity for most states do not meet our standards for statistical reliability and precision due to the relatively small sample size of the CPS.
Data users should also note that the 2020 State Health Compare coverage estimates from the CPS are not comparable to estimates from the ACS, since the two surveys use different concepts of health insurance coverage and uninsurance. The CPS asks respondents if they had a particular type of coverage at any point during the previous year or if they were uninsured for the entire year. The ACS asks respondents about their health insurance coverage at the time of the interview. More information on this topic will be available in a forthcoming related brief.