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Census.govPopulation Health Insurance Main Health Insurance Methodology › ACS Health Insurance Definitions

ACS Health Insurance Definitions

The Census Bureau collects data about different types of health insurance coverage and broadly classifies the types into either private health insurance or public coverage.

Private Health Insurance

Private health insurance is a plan provided through an employer or union; a plan purchased by an individual from an insurance company; or TRICARE or other military health coverage.

  • Employer-based health insurance is coverage offered through one's own or a relative's current, or former, employer or union.
  • Direct-purchase health coverage is purchased directly from an insurance company by an individual or an individual's relative.
  • TRICARE or other military health coverage is offered through health care programs for active-duty military personnel and retired members of the uniformed services, and their families and survivors.

Public Coverage

Public coverage includes the federal programs Medicare, Medicaid and other medical assistance programs, VA Health Care; the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); and individual state health plans.

  • Medicare is a Federal program which helps pay health care costs for people age 65 older, and for certain people under age 65 with long-term disabilities.
  • Means-tested health care:
    • Medicaid or Medical Assistance is any kind of government-assistance plan for those with low incomes or a disability.*
    • Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a state-level program providing health care to low-income children whose parents do not qualify for Medicaid.*
    • State-specific plans: Some states have their own health insurance programs for low-income, or for high-risk, uninsured individuals. These health plans may be known by different names in different states.*
  • VA Health Care is a Department of Veterans Affairs program that provides medical assistance to eligible veterans. Those who have ever used or enrolled in VA Health Care are considered covered to have VA coverage.
  • Indian Health Service (IHS) is a health care program through which the Department of Health and Human Services provides medical assistance to eligible American Indians at IHS facilities. In addition, the IHS helps pay the cost of selected health care services provided at non-IHS facilities.**

* The ACS questionnaire does not specifically ask about these types of coverage, but respondents who indicate these types of coverage are counted as having public coverage.

** People whose only health coverage is Indian Health Service are uninsured as IHS is not considered comprehensive coverage.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Health Insurance |  Last Revised: September 12, 2012