The Household Component of the Medical Expenditure
Panel Survey (MEPS-HC) is a nationally representative survey of
the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population. The sampling
frame is drawn from respondents to the National Health Interview Survey,
which is conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics.
The MEPS-HC collects data from a nationally representative sample
of households through an overlapping panel design. A new panel
of sample households is selected each year, and data for each panel
are collected for two calendar years. The two years of data for
each panel are collected in five rounds of interviews that take
place over a two and a half year period. This provides continuous
and current estimates of health care expenditures at both the person
and household level for two panels for each calendar year.
The chart below illustrates the timing and relationship between panels, rounds, and calendar years. For
example, looking at the data collection by panel, Panels 13 and 14 consist of five rounds of interviews
with Rounds 3-5 and Rounds 1-3 providing data for 2009. Looking at the data collection by year, data for
the year 2009 consists of data collected from Rounds 3-5 of Panel 13 and Rounds 1-3 of Panel 14.
N is equal to the number of people with a positive person weight on the file.
Each round of MEPS-HC interviews collects
information pertaining to a specific time period called a reference period. Using Panel 14 again as an example,
the reference period for the first interview of Panel 14 began on January 1, 2009, and ended on the date of
each reporting unit's Round 1 interview, conducted from March through June 2009. The reference periods for
Rounds 2, 3, and 4 varied from household to household and covered the time between interview dates of the
previous round and the current round. The last reference period of Panel 14 (Round 5) ended on December 31,
2010. (December 31st of the second calendar year is always the end of the last reference period.)
MEPS is a large-scale and comprehensive data collection effort
that includes many types of survey questions, some of which
only pertain to subsets of the diverse respondents participating
in the survey. To accommodate the extensive array of questions
covered, yet minimize the number of questions asked of each
respondent, data are collected using an intricate system
of skip patterns and questionnaire modules grouped into sections.
Computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) using a laptop
computer makes it possible to field such a complex data collection
Since data are collected using CAPI, rather than a hard copy
questionnaire, the data collection instrument actually consists
of sections that are composed of a series of computer screens
containing questions, interviewing instructions, and skip
pattern directions, as well as computer programming notes
embedded along with each data item. The MEPS data collection
in a given round consists of different sections. Some sections
are included in every round of data collection. Other sections
are only included in one or two rounds—this type
of section is also referred to as a supplement.
Any single question must be considered within the context
of the skip patterns incorporated into the questionnaire.
Some questions appear in several CAPI screens because of
the variety of skip patterns that lead to the question. The
question is only asked when the skip pattern determines that
it should be asked of that respondent. Items asking the same
question of various respondents typically map back to a single
variable in the database.
Click here to go to the
MEPS-HC survey questionnaires.