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Codes and Frequencies

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For sample adults, HIMCARE indicates whether the person had Medicare coverage. Prior to 2019, HIMCARE was asked of all persons and only those 65 and older in 1976. It reflects the verbatim response to a question on whether the person (or family member) had Medicare (for 1976 to 1996) or what kind of insurance the respondent (or family member) had. It is not comparable with the recoded variable HIMCAREE, which reflects responses edited for accuracy by the NCHS. See the comparability tab for more details.

Note that the universe changed between 1999 and 2000, although this should not affect affirmative responses for this variable. For 1997 to 1999, it reflects responses of all persons who already indicated they had some form of health insurance. For 2000-2018it reflects responses of all persons. Beginning in 2019, HIMCARE is asked only of sample adults. Sample children with Medicare are now captured by HIOTHGOV.

Various definitions for Medicare were provided to respondents over time, but the changes in definition were not substantial. Medicare was defined as a health insurance program for certain disabled persons and for persons age 65 years old and older.


Medicare provides health coverage to almost all Americans aged 65 or older. Disabled persons who received cash benefits for 24 months under the Social Security program and persons suffering from end-stage renal disease also qualify for Medicare coverage. Medicare's Basic Hospital Insurance Plan pays for hospital costs and post-hospitalization services. The Medical Insurance Plan is a voluntary plan covering physicians' services and a variety of medical and health services received either inside or outside hospitals. This second part of Medicare is financed by monthly premium payments and subsidies from federal funds

In 1976, Medicare coverage for persons under 65 was inferred from answers to questions for reasons why the person had no insurance (HINORMCARE, care received through Social Security Medicare).

The definition, order, and wording of private health insurance changed over time to reflect changes in the availability of different types of coverage and issues of interest. Users are strongly encouraged to review the user note Insurance Data Collection.


Apart from differences in the universe and changes to the questionnaire, this variable is comparable over time. However, it is not comparable with the recoded variable HIMCAREE, which reflects responses edited for accuracy by the NCHS. During the course of data editing, the NCHS discovered many errors in the responses to questions about insurance coverage. This might be shown, for example, by a mismatch between the verbatim name of an insurance plan and the type of insurance coverage the person selected from the categories on the card. Because of such errors in reporting, users should not combine the edited responses with the non-edited responses.

The NHIS questionnaire was substantially redesigned in 2019 to introduce a different data collection structure and new content. For more information on changes in terminology, universes, and data collection methods beginning in 2019, please see the user note.


  • 1976: Persons age 65+.
  • 1978; 1980; 1982; 1984; 1986: All persons.
  • 1983; 1993: Persons in quarters 3 and 4.
  • 1989-1992: All persons.
  • 1994-1996: All persons.
  • 1997-1999: Persons covered by some type of health care plan.
  • 2000-2018: All persons.
  • 2019-2022: Sample adults age 18+.


  • 1976, 1978, 1980, 1982-1984, 1986, 1989-2022


  • 1976, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1989-1992, 1994-2018 : PERWEIGHT
  • 1983, 1993, 2019-2022 : SAMPWEIGHT