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Single service plan for dental care (recode)

Codes and Frequencies

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For all persons, SDENTAL indicates whether the individual had a single service insurance plan for dental bills.

A different variable, HIPDENTCOVR, reports on coverage for dental bills through a comprehensive private health insurance plan.

Data Collection Process for SDENTAL 

The 1989 NHIS Field Representative's Manual described "specialty health care plans" "that pay only for a specific health care service, such as prescriptions, cancer treatment, or eye care" as "a relatively new concept in health care insurance." The Manual further stated that such a plan "is usually limited to one type of service and is frequently obtained to supplement a comprehensive plan that may not provide that type of coverage." For 1993 forward, single service plans are defined as plans that pay for only type of service.

For all years, persons who reported having insurance that paid for only one type of care were asked what type of service was covered. For 1999, interviewers first asked an opening question about whether the person had some form of health insurance, and then asked only those with an affirmative response about single service coverage (including dental care). For 2000 forward, even persons who chose the category "no coverage of any type" in response to the opening question received the question for SDENTAL.

For further information about how the NHIS collected information about dental coverage, either as part of comprehensive plans or as single service plans, see the variable description for DENTALCOVR.

Survey Text

The wording of questions about single service coverage, including coverage for dental care, changed over time.


1999 forward

  • What type of service or care do {your/subject name's} single service plan or plans pay for? (Mark all that apply)
1993-1996Does this plan pay for a variety of health care services or does it pay for ONLY ONE type of services or care?
  • What type of service or care does the plan pay for? Mark (X) only one type of service
1989 (In addition to the plan(s) you just mentioned) Is anyone in the family now covered by an insurance plan that pays for only one type of health care service, such as nursing home care, eye care, or prescriptions?
  • What type of service does --'s plan pay for?


Along with universe changes and the slight differences in question wording noted in the variable description, the comparability of SDENTAL is limited by the back-editing of insurance data introduced in 1997.


Starting 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. (For a description of the back-editing process, see HIPRIVATEE.) Prior to 1997, individuals may have mistakenly reported having a single service plan, but their responses were not edited for accuracy; after 1997, responses were checked and corrected. This difference reduces the comparability of SDENTAL over time, and users should be cautious about comparing results from before and after 1997.

The back-edited and recoded variable SINGLEE, available for 1997 forward, indicates whether an individual had any single service plan. The NCHS strongly advises analysts to use these recoded insurance variables as a more reliable source of information about the types of insurance coverage than is provided by respondents' original and unedited answers about their insurance type.

Users should be careful to distinguish between SDENTAL (which relates to single service dental coverage) and DENTALCOVR (which relates to dental coverage as part of a comprehensive insurance plan).


  • 1989: Persons covered by single service plan (that pays for only one type of service, such as nursing home care, eye care or prescriptions).
  • 1993: Persons in quarters 3 or 4 whose health insurance plan only pays for ONE TYPE of service or care.
  • 1994-1996: Persons whose health insurance plan only pays for one type of service or care.
  • 1999-2018: Persons covered by single service plan.


  • 1989, 1993-1996, 1999-2018