Children's Health Insurance Patterns: A Review of the Literature. Chapter II. How Many Children are Uninsured?


Although most researchers agree on the general trends of health insurance coverage -- that is, that the rate of private or employer-sponsored coverage is falling while public sponsored coverage is rising -- they often disagree on the actual number of uninsured, or even how the uninsured should be defined and measured. For example, although the most widely cited estimate of the number of uninsured children in America is about 9.8 million, which is based on the March 1996 Current Population Survey (CPS), there is debate over whether this estimate is closer to the number of uninsured at a point in time or the number uninsured throughout the year. Moreover, estimates of the uninsured using alternative data sources, or using CPS data that have been edited because of problems with the reporting of Medicaid, vary from the basic CPS estimate by as much as one-third.

This chapter reviews the literature on the recent estimates of the uninsured and why the estimates from various databases differ. We review the estimates of the uninsured based on the following databases: the March CPS, the SIPP, the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the National Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), the Community Tracking Study (CTS), and the Kaiser/Commonwealth Survey of Americans.