Codes and Frequencies
HIPEMPAYR is a recoded variable, created by the IPUMS NHIS staff, that indicates whether the employer (or union) paid for any part of the expenses of a private health insurance plan. For all years except 1997 to 1999, the universe for this variable is all persons who reported having a private health insurance health plan that was obtained through an employer, union, or workplace. For 1997 to 1999, the universe includes all those who said they had some form of health insurance. For 1995 forward, self-employed persons and those who obtained insurance through professional associations count as having insurance acquired through the workplace. Except for 1990-1996, HIPEMPAYR
refers to coverage at the time of the interview; for 1990-1996, HIPEMPAYR
refers to coverage in the previous month.
For 1991, HIPEMPAYR is constructed from responses to HIEMPLPAY (employer or union pays for all, part, or norm of the cost of plan), which was released by the NCHS with no persons in the "unknown--don't know" category.
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 notes Insurance Data Collection and Private Insurance Definitions.
Number of Plans Considered
There were changes over time in the number of insurance plans considered when collecting information about the employer's (or union's) contribution.
Information was collected on "any plan" for 1976 and 1980; on to up to five plans in 1982; on up to six plans in 1983; on up to five plans for 1984-1989; on "any plan" for 1990 and 1991; and on up to four plans per family for 1992 forward. Beginning in 2004, the NHIS public use files reported data only for plans one and two.
HIPEMPAYR is based on responses to questions on coverage under plans one through five for 1982-1989, plans one through four for 1992-2003, and plans one and two for 2004 forward. Changes in the number of insurance plans considered should have little effect on the results for HIPEMPAYR.
Persons with three or more plans have a "yes" response in HIPRIVGT2 (available for 2004 forward). Analysis by IHIS staff indicates that a very small number of persons (less than 0.2 percent of the total number of individuals with private health insurance per year for 2004 to 2009) had three or more private insurance plans.
For all years, interviewers first asked whether each family member was covered by any kind of health insurance or some other kind of health care plan. (Proxy reporting was allowed, so one person might provide this information for all family members.) Persons without an affirmative response to this opening query were treated differently in 1997-1999 than they were after 2000.
For 1997 to 1999, only people with affirmative responses to this initial question were included in follow-up questions about the kind of health insurance and the details of coverage; for 1997 to 1999, those without an affirmative response to the initial question are coded NIU (not in in universe) for follow-up questions on insurance characteristics. Beginning in 2000, the response "no insurance" was included as a valid response to the initial question. Thus, for 2000 forward, the universe for follow-up questions on insurance coverage type and details was "all persons" (including those with an affirmative response to HINONE or reporting "no insurance").
How data were collected on employer/union contributions to insurance costs changed over time. For 1989-1996, interviewers asked whether an employer or union paid for any part of the insurance premium.
If necessary, interviewers clarified the meaning of the question by stating, "The cost of the plan refers to the premiums, which are regular payments for health insurance coverage only, not for health care services. Frequently, these payments are made by payroll deduction."
For 1997 forward, interviewers asked, "Who pays for this plan?" and handed out a flash card that listed various responses. Respondents could pick all applicable responses.
The survey questions used to construct HIPEMPAYR changed over time.
These questions included the following:
- Who pays for this health insurance plan?Response category: Employer or union
- Does the employer or union currently pay for all, some, or none of the cost of premiums for this health insurance plan? Read if necessary: The cost of the plan refers to the premiums, which are regular payments for health insurance coverage only, not for health care services. Frequently, these payments are made by payroll deduction.
- Does the employer or union pay for all, some, or none of the premium?
- Did the employer or union pay for all, part, or none of the cost of this plan?
- Does the employer or union pay for any part of the cost for this (name) plan?
During the course of data editing, the NCHS staff discovered many errors in the responses to questions about insurance coverage. Such errors became apparent, for example, through mismatches between the verbatim names of insurance plans and the type of insurance coverage people selected from categories on a flashcard. Users should be aware that the responses for HIPEMPAYR prior to 1997 have not been edited for accuracy, and respondents may have mistakenly reported their insurance information.
HIPEMPAYR is completely comparable for 2004 forward. The variable is also completely comparable within the two sets of grouped years 1997-2003 and 1993-1996. The reduction in the number of plans for which data are publicly available would not seem to reduce comparability before and after 2004since very few people had more than 2 private insurance plans.
The responses about what kind of insurance coverage the person had have been back-edited for accuracy only in the data for 1997 forward. See the variable description for HINOTCOVE for a description of this back-editing process.). The unedited responses about insurance type were found to contain many errors. Researchers should thus exercise caution when comparing results for HIPEMPAYR before and after 1997.
- 1976; 1980; 1982; 1984; 1986; 1989; 1992: Persons who are covered by a general health insurance plan (excludes single service plans).
- 1983; 1993: Persons in quarters 3 and 4 covered by a general health insurance plan (excludes single service plans).
- 1994-2018: Persons who are covered by a general health insurance plan (excludes single service plans).
- 1989, 1991-2018