Comparing Federal Government Surveys that Count the Uninsured

Capitol Building in Washington D.C.

The Issue:

Timely and accurate estimates of the number of people without health insurance coverage are important for understanding policy around health insurance coverage.

This brief presents trends in national estimates of uninsurance from five federal surveys: (1) Current Population Survey (CPS); (2) American Community Survey (ACS); (3) National Health Interview Survey (NHIS); (4) the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey—Household Component (MEPS-HC); and (5) The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

Key Findings

  • The uninsurance estimates from the five surveys have demonstrated similar national trends over time—a downward trend in the national number of uninsured.

  • As with the national estimates, the estimated level of uninsurance for states varies across surveys; however, general patterns are consistent, insofar as states with low uninsurance rates are low in all the surveys.


Federal surveys are essential resources for estimating the number of uninsured. Each survey provides a unique view of the problem of uninsurance, and together the surveys provide a wealth of information about how uninsurance varies by population characteristics and how it is associated with differences in access to and use of health care services and with health status.

About the grantee

The State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC) is a multidisciplinary health policy research center located at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. SHADAC is a resource for helping states collect and use data for health policy, with a particular focus on monitoring rates of health insurance coverage and understanding factors associated with uninsurance. For more information, please visit us at or contact us at