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Medicare and/or private insurance: Surgical coverage

Codes and Frequencies

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For all persons, MCPRISURG is a recoded variable indicating coverage provided through either Medicare or a private insurance plan for surgical expenses.


Interviewers provided a definition of Medicare to respondents (a Social Security health insurance program for disabled persons and for persons aged 65 years or older) and asked if the respondent was covered. Those who answered affirmatively were asked for their Medicare card to verify coverage and interviewers recorded they type. Respondents who could not (or would not) provide their card were asked if they covered by the part of Medicare that "pays for hospital bills," and the part which pays for doctor's bills.

Respondents were then asked about private insurance coverage, which was defined as any other health insurance plan other than Medicare which pays any part of a hospital, doctor's or surgeon's bill except for plans that pay only for accidents. Interviewers then asked if the plan paid for any part of doctor's or surgeon's bills for operations. There is also a separate question for coverage of both hospital and surgical expenses (MCPRIHORS).

For all years, private insurance excluded single service plans, and was generally defined as any form of health insurance which pays any part of a hospital or doctor's bill.


Apart from changes in the universe, there are minor comparability issues noted below. Changes in survey design (e.g., quarters in which the supplement was collected) may affect raw frequencies, but do not affect comparability of the variable. As always, data users should use the prescribed IPUMS NHIS weights.

In 1989, respondents were explicitly instructed to exclude single service plans in addition to plans which pay only for accidents. In other years, there was no explicit mention of single service plans, although prior to 1989, such plans were not common.


  • 1980; 1982; 1984; 1986; 1989: All persons.
  • 1983: Persons in quarters 3 and 4.


  • 1980, 1982-1984, 1986, 1989