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Has any private plan with prescription drug benefit

Codes and Frequencies

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HIPRXCOVR is a recoded variable created by the IPUMS NHIS staff, that indicates, for all persons with at least one private health insurance plan, whether any of the private plan(s) paid for any of the costs for medicines prescribed by a doctor. In 1989, the question specified "prescription drugs other than those administered during a hospital stay"; for 2004 forward, the question simply mentioned "medicines prescribed by a doctor." HIPRXCOVR refers to prescription drug coverage as a benefit of a comprehensive insurance plan; it does not refer to single service prescription drug plans.

Number of Plans Included

Information was collected on up to five private insurance plans per family in 1989 and on up to four plans for 2004 forward. However, only data for plans one and two are publicly available for 2004 and later years. Changes in the number of insurance plans considered should have little effect on the results for HIPRXCOVR.


Persons with three or more plans have a "yes" response to 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.

Survey Text

The question wording on prescription drug coverage changed over time.



  • Does it pay for any prescription drugs other than those administered during a hospital stay?
2004 forward
  • Does [Plan] pay for any of the costs for medicines prescribed by a doctor?

If necessary, interviewers also asked respondents, "Does this plan have a drug benefit?"

Definition of Private Health Insurance

For years in which HIPRXCOVR is available, the definition of "private health insurance" remained basically the same.


For 1989, private insurance excluded single service plans (with the exception of plans paying extra cash during hospital stays) and referred to plans that paid for hospital, doctor, surgical, or dentist bills.

For 2004 forward, persons asked about HIPRXCOVR had health insurance other than a single service plan, and other than the following public programs: Medicare, Medi-Gap, Medicaid, Military health care/VA, CHAMPUS/TRICARE/CHAMP-VA, Indian Health Service, State-sponsored health plans, CHIP (the Children's Health Insurance Plan), and state-sponsored health plans. Coverage under COBRA and TCC also constituted private plans.


HIPRXCOVR is completely comparable for 2004 forward.

Differences in question wording and number of plans considered (reported in the variable description) slightly limit the comparability of HIPRXCOVR between 1989 and 2004 forward.

A more serious limit to comparability between these periods is posed by the back-editing of insurance data to correct respondents' misreporting of insurance type.


Beginning in 1997, NCHS staff evaluated mismatches between verbatim insurance plan names and the type of coverage reported by respondents, and reclassified misreported cases into the proper category (e.g., from private insurance into Medicaid, or vice versa). (See HIPRIVATEE for a detailed description of the back-editing process.) Analysis by IHIS staff indicates that for each year from 2004 to 2009, around 1.6 percent of respondents who reported having private insurance did not have private insurance.

For 2004 forward, details on private plan coverage, such as HIPRXCOVR, reflect responses for which the coverage type was back-edited. For 1989, respondents may have misreported what type of insurance they had, and these errors were not corrected. Users should thus exercise caution in comparing results for HIPRXCOVR from 1989 with the results from later years.


  • 1989: Persons who are covered by a general health insurance plan (excludes single service plans)
  • 2004-2018: Persons who are covered by a general health insurance plan (excludes single service plans)


  • 1989, 2004-2018