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Data File Types

On this page: Full-Year - Event - Point-in-Time - HC/NHIS Linked - Projected Data - HC/IC Link - Pooled Linkage - Nursing Home Component



Household Component Full-Year Files

The full-year consolidated data files from the Household Component of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS-HC) contain person-level data covering the calendar year. Each file contains respondents from two subsequent panels, with MEPS survey data obtained in Rounds 3, 4, and 5 of the panel in its second year and Rounds 1, 2, and 3 of the panel in its first year.

The files contain the following variables:
Unique person identifiers and survey administration variables
Geographic variables
Demographic variables
Income and tax filing variables
Employment variables
Health insurance variables
Disability days indicators
Access to care variables
Health status variables
Utilization, expenditure, and source of payment variables
Weight and variance estimation variables

The codebook files provide the list of variables, their labels, and frequencies. The data documentation files provide information on the collection and data editing of these variables as well as survey sampling information and crosswalks to the survey instruments.

The full-year population characteristics files contain demographic characteristics of the MEPS sampled population as well as employment, health status, quality of care, patient satisfaction, and health insurance coverage estimates. The files also provide the first look at the population use counts for several categories of medical care services. A full-year population characteristic file is typically released six months before the release of a full-year consolidated file. Once the income and expenditure data become available, these estimates are placed on the consolidated file; the consolidated file is released; and the initial population characteristics file is replaced by the full year consolidated file.

The medical conditions files provide information on the household-reported medical conditions.

The jobs files contain variables pertaining to household-reported jobs, including wages, hours, industry, and occupation.

Person round plan files contain records for persons insured through private establishments providing hospital/physician, Medigap, dental, vision, or prescription medication coverage and include variables pertaining to managed care and experiences with plans. These files are designed to facilitate research on the sometimes complex and dynamic relationships between consumers and their private insurance. The person round plan file is not a person-level file and linking it to a MEPS full-year person-level file requires users making analytic decisions based on understanding the complexity of the person round plan file.

The longitudinal weight files contain persons who were in the panel survey for all or part of the two-year period. The files contain a weight variable that, when applied to the persons who participated in both years, enable the user to make national estimates of person-level changes in selected variables (e.g., health insurance, health status, utilization, and expenditures). In addition, the longitudinal weight can be used to develop cross-sectional type estimates for the civilian noninstitutionalized population in each year based on only the panel sample. To obtain analytic variables, the records on this file must be linked to the MEPS public use data files using the sample person identifier (DUPERSID).

Supplemental variables files exist for the years 1996–2000. These files contain variables that supplement previously released MEPS variables. Each file contains a different set of variables, depending on what was already released for that year. The files may be linked to other full-year data releases for the corresponding year.

Two other files—the 1996 Health Insurance Plan Abstraction (HIPA) file and the 1998 Long Term Care file—are also available.

Household Component Event Files

The event files from the Household Component of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS-HC) consist of a series of eight event files for each calendar year: prescription medicines, dental visits, other medical expenses, hospital inpatient stays, emergency room visits, outpatient department visits, office-based medical provider visits, and home health. Each file is an event-level file consisting of events for persons in the corresponding full-year consolidated file. If a person has multiple events within the year, each of these events will be represented with an event-level record.

For a prescription medicines event file, each record represents a unique prescribed medicine event; that is, a prescribed medicine reported as being purchased or otherwise obtained by the household respondent. The file contains an identifier for each unique prescribed medicine and information on the detailed characteristics associated with the event (e.g., national drug code (NDC), medicine name, etc.); selected Multum Lexicon variables; conditions, if any, associated with the medicine; the date on which the person first used the medicine; total expenditures and sources of payments; and types of pharmacies that filled the household’s prescriptions.

The Multum Lexicon Addendum files correspond to the MEPS-HC files for the years 1996–2001. Each of these files (H68F1–H68F6) can be linked to the corresponding 1996–2001 MEPS-HC prescribed medicines files (HC-010A through HC-059A). For 2002 and later, Multum Lexicon variables are available on the prescribed medicines files. National estimates cannot be made directly from the Multum Lexicon Addendum files; the files need to be linked to MEPS full-year files. Estimates involving the Multum Lexicon variables require users to make analytic decisions based on understanding the complexity of the Multum Lexicon Addendum files.


The dental visits event file contains information on the date of the dental event, type of provider seen, if the visit was due to an accident, reason for the dental event, whether or not medicines were prescribed, expenditures, and sources of payment.

The other medical supplies event file contains information on the purchase of and expenditures for medical equipment, supplies, glasses and other medical items purchased during the calendar year, and sources of payment.

The hospital inpatient stays event file contains characteristics associated with the hospital inpatient stay event, such as the date of the hospital inpatient stay, reason for the stay, types of services received, condition(s) and procedure(s) associated with the hospital inpatient stay, whether or not medicines were prescribed, expenditures, and sources of payment.

The emergency room visits event file contains characteristics associated with the emergency room visit, such as the date of the visit, types of care and services received, types of medicine prescribed during the visit, condition codes, expenditures, and sources of payment.

The outpatient visits event file contains characteristics associated with the outpatient visit data, such as the date of the visit, whether or not a doctor was seen, type of care received, type of services provided, expenditures, and sources of payment.

The office-based medical provider visits event file contains characteristics associated with the office-based visit, such as date of the visit, time spent with the provider, types of treatment and services received, types of medicine prescribed, condition codes, expenditures, and sources of payment.

The home health event file contains information on household-reported expenditures for home health visits, type of provider, type of services received, length of the visit, reason for the visit, expenditures, and sources of payment.

The appendix to MEPS event file contains 1) a file that links condition files with event files, 2) a file that links the prescribed medicines event file with other 2003 event files, 3) a “Condition-Event Frequency” table that contains unweighted and weighted counts of records on event files for each of the condition, procedure, and clinical classification codes on the condition file, and 4) a "Utilization and Expenditures Summary" table that contains statistics for all of the utilization and expenditure variables on the person-level and event-level files.

The codebook files provide the list of variables, their labels, and frequencies. The data documentation files provide information on the collection and data editing of these variables as well as survey sampling information and crosswalks to the survey instruments.

Household Component Point-in-Time Files

The point-in-time files provide person-level information on data collected during the early part of the calendar year. The content includes variables pertaining to survey administration, demographics, employment, health status, and health insurance.

Household Component-National Health Interview Survey Linked Files

Each MEPS/NHIS link file contains a crosswalk that allows data users to merge MEPS full-year public use data files to NHIS person-level public use data files that contain data collected for MEPS respondents in the year prior to their initial year of MEPS participation.

The MEPS/NHIS link file is available on CD-ROM only. A confidentiality form must be filled out and submitted to AHRQ before this CD-ROM can be obtained. Here is the ordering procedure:
1. Print the data use agreement HTML/PDF (9 KB).
2. Read the agreement.
3. Sign the agreement.
4. Send the signed agreement to us using one of the following methods:

Method 1: Fax the signed agreement along with a return mailing address to 301-427-1277, attn. Cindy Nunley and email the MEPS Project Director a notification that you are faxing a copy of the signed data use agreement.

Method 2: Attach a scanned copy of the signed data use agreement in an email message to the MEPS Project Director. Be sure to provide a return mailing address in the email message.

5. MEPS will send you a CD-ROM containing all of the link files currently available.

NHEA-Aligned MEPS Projected Expenditure Data Files

These files contain projected household expenditure data from the 2002 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) Household Component file aligned with the 2002 National Health Expenditure Accounts (NHEA). Projected expenditures are calculated in a two-step process. First, core data from the 2002 NHEA-aligned MEPS file are projected to each end year through 2016 by adjusting MEPS person weights with Census projections for population totals, fertility, and mortality over time. Then, the re-weighted NHEA-aligned MEPS expenditures are calibrated annually by type of service and source of payment categories so that growth in the re-weighted NHEA-aligned MEPS expenditures matches growth in the projected NHEA. Users should be aware that these estimates are surrounded by uncertainty from a wide variety of sources. The documentation contains more details as well as the statistical tables.
Note, this data release replaces the old 1996-2008 projections and the interim data are no longer available.

Household Component/Insurance Component Link Files


The Household Component/Insurance Component link files provide linkage information for the employers of MEPS-HC jobholders who are contacted through the MEPS Insurance Component, an establishment (or employer)-based (rather than household-based) survey to jobholders in the Household Component. Employers are asked about health insurance offerings, premiums, employee contributions to premiums, and other plan details for their establishment as a whole. This file information can be linked, via the identifiers on the file, to data collected during the household survey for the jobholder to provide a more complete picture of the jobholder’s insurance options.

To protect the confidentiality of employers responding to the MEPS-IC survey, MEPS HC-IC link data cannot be released on a public use file. However, confidential files containing the linked health insurance information for jobholders are available for research purposes through the AHRQ Data Center. Data users must apply in advance to get access to the Data Center, and there are significant restrictions on what data can be taken out of the center. Potential users should also note that significant survey non-response, compounded by the multiple stages of the collection process, prevents these linked data from being used to make nationally representative estimates, and results cannot be generalized beyond the sample of persons included in the file. Thus, no weight has been constructed for these files.

Detailed documentation of the research files, including additional survey details, a crosswalk of variables to the MEPS-IC questionnaires, and the codebook is available in the online data files.

Pooled Linkage File

The pooled linkage file is provided for use with pooled data from the MEPS full-year consolidated files. This person-level file contains the combined variance stratum and primary sampling unit (PSU) variables for year 1 and year 2 in which the respondent participated in the survey, along with the standard MEPS person ID variables for linking to other MEPS files. This one file contains records for each person who is on any of the MEPS full-year consolidated files.

Nursing Home Component Files

In 1996 only, MEPS included a Nursing Home Component (NHC) that gathered information from a sample of nursing homes and residents nationwide on the characteristics of the facilities and services offered; expenditures and sources of payment on an individual resident level; and resident characteristics, including functional limitation, cognitive impairment, age, income, and insurance coverage. The NHC also collected data on the availability and use of community-based care prior to admission to nursing homes.

For reasons of confidentiality, NHC data are available only through the AHRQ Data Center. Documentation for the files, however, is available in the online data files.