MEPS HC-229F: 2021 Outpatient Department Visits

June 2023

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Center for Financing, Access, and Cost Trends
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857
(301) 427-1406

Table of Contents

A. Data Use Agreement
B. Background
1.0 Household Component
2.0 Medical Provider Component
3.0 Survey Management and Data Collection
C. Technical and Programming Information
1.0 General Information
2.0 Data File Information
2.1 Codebook Structure
2.2 Reserved Codes
2.3 Codebook Format
2.4 Variable Source and Naming Conventions
2.4.1 General
2.4.2 Expenditure and Source of Payment Variables
2.5 File Contents
2.5.1 Survey Administration Variables
2.5.2 MPC Data Indicator (MPCDATA)
2.5.3 Outpatient Visit Event Variables
2.5.4 Clinical Classification Software Refined
2.5.5 Flat Fee Variables (FFEEIDX, FFOPTYPE, FFBEF21, FFTOT22)
2.5.6 Expenditure Data
2.5.7 Rounding
3.0 Survey Sample Information
3.1 Discussion of Pandemic Effects on Quality of 2021 MEPS Data
3.1.1 Summary
3.1.2 Overview
3.1.3 Data Quality Issues for MEPS in 2021 Directly Associated with Data Quality Concerns for the NHIS and CPS
3.1.4 Modifications to the MEPS HC 2021 Sample Design
3.1.5 Data Quality Issues for MEPS for FY 2021
3.2 Sample Weight (PERWT21F)
3.3 Details on Person Weight Construction
3.3.1 MEPS Panel 23 Weight Development Process
3.3.2 MEPS Panel 24 Weight Development Process
3.3.3 MEPS Panel 25 Weight Development Process
3.3.4 MEPS Panel 26 Weight Development Process
3.3.5 The Final Weight for 2021
3.4 Coverage
3.5 Using MEPS Data for Trend Analysis
4.0 Strategies for Estimation
4.1 Developing Event-Level Estimates
4.2 Person-Based Estimates for Outpatient Visits
4.3 Variables with Missing Values
4.4 Variance Estimation (VARSTR, VARPSU)
4.4.1 Taylor-series Linearization Method
4.4.2 Balanced Repeated Replication (BRR) Method
5.0 Merging/Linking MEPS Data Files
References
D. Variable-Source Crosswalk

A. Data Use Agreement

Individual identifiers have been removed from the micro-data contained in these files. Nevertheless, under Sections 308 (d) and 903 (c) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 242m and 42 U.S.C. 299 a-1), data collected by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and/or the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) may not be used for any purpose other than for the purpose for which they were supplied; any effort to determine the identity of any reported cases is prohibited by law.

Therefore in accordance with the above referenced Federal Statute, it is understood that:

  1. No one is to use the data in this data set in any way except for statistical reporting and analysis; and

  2. If the identity of any person or establishment should be discovered inadvertently, then (a) no use will be made of this knowledge, (b) the Director Office of Management AHRQ will be advised of this incident, (c) the information that would identify any individual or establishment will be safeguarded or destroyed, as requested by AHRQ, and (d) no one else will be informed of the discovered identity; and

  3. No one will attempt to link this data set with individually identifiable records from any data sets other than the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey or the National Health Interview Survey. Furthermore, linkage of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and the National Health Interview Survey may not occur outside the AHRQ Data Center, NCHS Research Data Center (RDC) or the U.S. Census RDC network.

By using these data you signify your agreement to comply with the above stated statutorily based requirements with the knowledge that deliberately making a false statement in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the Federal Government violates Title 18 part 1 Chapter 47 Section 1001 and is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or up to 5 years in prison.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality requests that users cite AHRQ and the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey as the data source in any publications or research based upon these data.

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B. Background

1.0 Household Component

The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) provides nationally representative estimates of health care use, expenditures, sources of payment, and health insurance coverage for the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population. The MEPS Household Component (HC) also provides estimates of respondents’ health status, demographic and socio-economic characteristics, employment, access to care, and satisfaction with health care. Estimates can be produced for individuals, families, and selected population subgroups. The panel design of the survey includes five rounds of interviews covering two full calendar years. Additional rounds were added in 2020 and 2021, covering a third and fourth year respectively, to compensate for the smaller number of completed interviews in later panels. These extra rounds provide data for examining person-level changes in selected variables such as expenditures, health insurance coverage, and health status. Using computer assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) technology, information about each household member is collected, and the survey builds on this information from interview to interview. All data for a sampled household are reported by a single household respondent.

The MEPS HC was initiated in 1996. Each year a new panel of sample households is selected. Because the data collected are comparable to those from earlier medical expenditure surveys conducted in 1977 and 1987, it is possible to analyze long-term trends. Each annual MEPS HC sample size is about 15,000 households. Data can be analyzed at either the person or event-level. Data must be weighted to produce national estimates.

The set of households selected for each panel of the MEPS HC is a subsample of households participating in the previous year’s National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The NHIS sampling frame provides a nationally representative sample of the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population. In 2006, the NHIS implemented a new sample design, which included Asian persons in addition to households with Black and Hispanic persons in the oversampling of minority populations. NHIS introduced a new sample design in 2016 that discontinued oversampling of these minority groups.

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2.0 Medical Provider Component

Upon completion of the household CAPI interview and obtaining permission from the household survey respondents, a sample of medical providers are contacted by telephone to obtain information that household respondents cannot accurately provide. This part of the MEPS is called the Medical Provider Component (MPC) and information is collected on dates of visits, diagnosis and procedure codes, charges and payments. The Pharmacy Component (PC), a subcomponent of the MPC, does not collect charges or diagnosis and procedure codes but does collect drug detail information, including National Drug Code (NDC) and medicine name, as well as amounts of payment. The MPC is not designed to yield national estimates. It is primarily used as an imputation source to supplement/replace household reported expenditure information.

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3.0 Survey Management and Data Collection

MEPS HC and MPC data are collected under the authority of the Public Health Service Act. Data are collected under contract with Westat, Inc. (MEPS HC) and Research Triangle Institute (MEPS MPC). Data sets and summary statistics are edited and published in accordance with the confidentiality provisions of the Public Health Service Act and the Privacy Act. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) provides consultation and technical assistance.

As soon as data collection and editing are completed, the MEPS survey data are released to the public in staged releases of micro data files and tables via the MEPS website and datatools.ahrq.gov.

Additional information on MEPS is available from the MEPS project manager or the MEPS public use data manager at the Center for Financing, Access, and Cost Trends, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857 (301-427-1406).

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C. Technical and Programming Information

1.0 General Information

This documentation describes one in a series of public use event files from the 2021 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) Household (HC) and Medical Provider Components (MPC). Released as an ASCII data file (with related SAS, SPSS, R, and Stata programming statements and data user information) and a SAS data set, SAS transport file, Stata data set, and Excel file, this public use file provides detailed information on outpatient visits for a nationally representative sample of the civilian noninstitutionalized population of the United States and can be used to make estimates of outpatient utilization and expenditures for calendar year 2021. The file contains 57 variables and has a logical record length of 314 with an additional 2-byte carriage return/line feed at the end of each record. As illustrated below, this file consists of MEPS survey data obtained in the 2021 portion of Round 7, and all of Rounds 8 and 9 for Panel 23; the 2021 portion of Rounds 5 and 7, and all of Round 6 for Panel 24; the 2021 portion of Round 3, and all of Rounds 4 and 5 for Panel 25; and Rounds 1, 2, and the 2021 portion of Round 3 for Panel 26 (i.e., the rounds for the MEPS panels covering calendar year 2021).

Full year (FY) 2021 is the first data year to include four panels of data; Panel 23 was extended to include Rounds 7, 8, and 9 and Panel 24 was extended to include Rounds 6 and 7.

Illustration indicating that 2021 data were collected in Panel 23 Rounds 7 through 9, Panel 24 Rounds 5 through 7, Panel 25 Rounds 3 through 5, and Panel 26 Rounds 1 through 3.

Each record on this event file represents a unique outpatient event; that is, an outpatient event reported by the household respondent. Outpatient events reported in Panel 23 Round 9, Panel 24 Round 7, Panel 25 Round 5, and Panel 26 Round 3 and known to have occurred after December 31, 2021 are not included on this file.

Annual counts of outpatient visits are based entirely on household reports. Information from the MEPS MPC is used to supplement expenditure and payment data reported by the household, and does not affect use estimates.

Data from this event file can be merged with other MEPS HC data files, for purposes of appending person characteristics such as demographic or health insurance characteristics to each outpatient visit record.

This file can also be used to construct summary variables of expenditures, sources of payment, and related aspects of outpatient visits. Aggregate annual person-level information on the use of outpatient departments and other health services is provided on the MEPS 2021 Full Year Consolidated Data File, where each record represents a MEPS sampled person.

This documentation offers a brief overview of the types and levels of data provided, and the content and structure of the file and the codebook. It contains the following sections:

  • Data File Information

  • Survey Sample Information

  • Strategies for Estimation

  • Merging/Linking MEPS Data Files

  • References

  • Variable - Source Crosswalk

Any variables not found on this file but released on previous years’ files may have been excluded because they contained only missing data.

For more information on the MEPS HC sample design, see Chowdhury et al (2019). For information on the MEPS MPC design, see RTI (2019). Copies of the HC and the MPC survey instruments used to collect the information on the Outpatient Department Visits file are available in the Survey Questionnaires section of the MEPS website.

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2.0 Data File Information

The 2021 Outpatient Department Visits public use data set consists of one event-level data file. The file contains characteristics associated with the outpatient (OP) event and imputed expenditure data.

The 2021 outpatient public use data set contains 29,731 outpatient event records; of these records, 29,470 are associated with persons having a positive person-level weight (PERWT21F). This file includes outpatient event records for all household members who resided in eligible responding households and for whom at least one outpatient event was reported. Questions inquired whether someone in the family had a visit to an independent lab or testing facility for x-rays or other tests. An affirmative answer to these questions leads to the creation of an office-based provider event record or an outpatient department event record.

Each record represents one household-reported outpatient event that occurred during calendar year 2021. Outpatient visits known to have occurred after December 31, 2021 are not included on this file. Some household members may have multiple outpatient events and thus will be represented in multiple records on this file. Other household members may have had no outpatient events reported and thus will have no records on this file. These data were collected during the 2021 portion of Round 7, and all of Rounds 8 and 9 for Panel 23; the 2021 portion of Rounds 5 and 7, and all of Round 6 for Panel 24; the 2021 portion of Round 3, and all of Rounds 4 and 5 for Panel 25; as well as Rounds 1, 2, and the 2021 portion of Round 3 for Panel 26 of the MEPS HC. The persons represented on this file had to meet either a) or b) below:

  1. Be classified as a key in-scope person who responded for his or her entire period of 2021 eligibility (i.e., persons with a positive 2021 full-year person-level weight (PERWT21F > 0)), or

  2. Be an eligible member of a family all of whose key in-scope members have a positive person-level weight (PERWT21F > 0). (Such a family consists of all persons with the same value for FAMIDYR.) That is, the person must have a positive full-year family-level weight (FAMWT21F>0). Note that FAMIDYR and FAMWT21F are variables on the 2021 Full Year Consolidated Data File.

Persons with no outpatient visit events for 2021 are not included on this event-level OP file but are represented on the person-level 2021 Full Year Population Characteristics file.

Each outpatient visit record includes the following information: date of the visit; whether or not the household member saw the doctor; type of care received; type of services (i.e., lab test, sonogram or ultrasound, x-rays, etc.) received; medicines prescribed during the visit; flat fee information; imputed sources of payment; total payment and total charge; a full-year person-level weight; variance strata; and variance PSU.

To append person-level information such as demographic or health insurance coverage to each event record, data from this file can be merged with 2021 MEPS HC person-level data (e.g. Full Year Consolidated or Full Year Population Characteristics files) using the person identifier, DUPERSID. Outpatient visit events on this file can also be linked to the MEPS 2021 Medical Conditions File. Please see Section 5.0 for details on how to merge MEPS data files.

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2.1 Codebook Structure

For most variables on the Outpatient Department events file, both weighted and unweighted frequencies are provided in the accompanying codebook. The exceptions to this are weight variables and variance estimation variables. Only unweighted frequencies of these variables are included in the accompanying codebook file. See the Weights Variables list in Section D, Variable-Source Crosswalk. The codebook and data file sequence list variables in the following order:

  • Unique person identifiers

  • Unique outpatient visit identifiers

  • Outpatient characteristic variables

  • Imputed expenditure variables

  • Weight and variance estimation variables

Note that the person identifier is unique within this data year.

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2.2 Reserved Codes

The following reserved code values are used:

Value Definition
-1 INAPPLICABLE Question was not asked due to skip pattern
-7 REFUSED Question was asked and respondent refused to answer question
-8 DK Question was asked and respondent did not know answer or the information could not be ascertained
-15 CANNOT BE COMPUTED Value cannot be derived from data


The value -15 (CANNOT BE COMPUTED) is assigned to MEPS constructed variables in cases where there is not enough information from the MEPS instrument to calculate the constructed variables. “Not enough information” is often the result of skip patterns in the data or from missing information resulting from MEPS responses of -7 (REFUSED) or -8 (DK). Note that reserved code -8 includes cases where the information from the question was “not ascertained” or where the respondent chose “don’t know”.

Generally, values of -1, -7, -8, and -15 for non-expenditure variables have not been edited on this file. The values of -1 and -15 can be edited by the data users/analysts by following the skip patterns in the HC survey questionnaire located on the MEPS website.

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2.3 Codebook Format

This codebook describes an ASCII data set (although the data are also being provided in a SAS data set, SAS transport file, Stata data set, and Excel file). The following codebook items are provided for each variable:

Identifier Description
Name Variable name
Description Variable descriptor
Format Number of bytes
Type Type of data: numeric (indicated by NUM) or character (indicated by CHAR)
Start Beginning column position of variable in record
End Ending column position of variable in record


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2.4 Variable Source and Naming Conventions

In general, variable names reflect the content of the variable. All imputed/edited variables end with an “X”.

As variable collection, universe, or categories are altered, the variable name will be appended with “_Myy” to indicate in which year the alterations took place. Details about these alterations can be found throughout this document.

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2.4.1 General

Variables on this file were derived from the HC questionnaire itself, the MPC data collection instrument, derived from CAPI, or assigned in sampling. The source of each variable is identified in Section D “Variable - Source Crosswalk” in one of four ways:

  1. Variables derived from CAPI or assigned in sampling are so indicated as “CAPI derived” or “Assigned in sampling,” respectively;

  2. Variables which come from one or more specific questions have those questionnaire sections and question numbers indicated in the “Source” column;
    • FF - Flat Fee section

    • CP- Charge Payment section

    • OP - Outpatient section

    • TH - Telehealth Section


  3. Variables constructed from multiple questions using complex algorithms are labeled “Constructed” in the “Source” column; and

  4. Variables that have been edited or imputed are so indicated.

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2.4.2 Expenditure and Source of Payment Variables

The names of the expenditure and source of payment variables follow a standard convention and end in an “X” indicating edited/imputed. Please note that imputed means that a series of logical edits, as well as an imputation process to account for missing data, have been performed on the variable.

The total sum of payments and the 10 source of payment variables are named in the following way:

The first two characters indicate the type of event:

IP - inpatient stay

ER - emergency room visit

HH - home health visit

OM - other medical equipment

OB - office-based visit

OP - outpatient visit

DV - dental visit

RX - prescribed medicine

For expenditure variables on the OP file, the third character indicates whether the expenditure (or amount paid) is associated with the facility (F) or the physician (D).

In the case of the source of payment variables, the fourth and fifth characters indicate:

SF - self or family

MR - Medicare

MD - Medicaid

PV - private insurance

VA - Veterans Administration/CHAMPVA

TR - TRICARE

OF - other federal government

SL - state/local government

WC - Workers’ Compensation

OT - other insurance

XP - sum of payments

In addition, the total charge variable is indicated by TC in the variable name.

The sixth and seventh characters indicate the year (21). The eighth character being “X”, indicates whether the variable is edited/imputed.

For example, OPFSF21X is the edited/imputed amount paid by self or family for the facility portion of the expenditure associated with an outpatient visit.

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2.5 File Contents

2.5.1 Survey Administration Variables

Person Identifiers (DUID, PID, DUPERSID)

The definitions of Dwelling Units (DUs) in the MEPS Household Survey are generally consistent with the definitions employed for the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The dwelling unit ID (DUID) is a seven-digit ID number consisting of a 2-digit panel number followed by a five-digit random number assigned after the case was sampled for MEPS. A three-digit person number (PID) uniquely identifies each person within the DU. The ten-character variable DUPERSID uniquely identifies each person represented on the file and is the combination of the variables DUID and PID. IDs begin with the 2-digit panel number.

For detailed information on dwelling units and families, please refer to the documentation for the 2021 Full Year Population Characteristics File.

Record Identifiers (EVNTIDX, FFEEIDX)

EVNTIDX uniquely identifies each outpatient event (i.e., each record on the outpatient file) and is the variable required to link outpatient events to the data file containing details on conditions (MEPS 2021 Medical Condition file). EVNTIDX begins with the 2-digit panel number and ends with the 2-digit event type number. For details on linking see Section 5.0 or the MEPS 2021 Appendix File, HC-229I.

FFEEIDX is a constructed variable that uniquely identifies a flat fee group, that is, all events that were part of a flat fee payment. For example, if a patient receives stitches during an outpatient visit and comes back to have the stitches removed ten days later in a follow-up outpatient visit, both visits are covered under one flat fee dollar amount. These two events (the initial outpatient visit and the subsequent outpatient visit) would have the same value for FFEEIDX. A “mixed” flat fee group could contain both outpatient and office-based visits. Only outpatient and office-based events are allowed in a mixed bundle. Please note that FFEEIDX should be used to link up the outpatient and office-based events in order to determine the full set of events that are part of a flat fee group.

Round Indicator (EVENTRN)

EVENTRN indicates the round in which the outpatient event was reported. Please note: Rounds 7 (partial), 8, and 9 are associated with MEPS survey data collected from Panel 23. Likewise, Rounds 5 (partial), 6, and 7 (partial) are associated with MEPS survey data collected from Panel 24. Rounds 3 (partial), 4, and 5 are associated with MEPS survey data collected from Panel 25 and Rounds 1, 2, and 3 (partial) are associated with data collected from Panel 26.

Panel Indicator (PANEL)

PANEL is a constructed variable used to specify the panel number for the person. PANEL will indicate either Panel 23, Panel 24, Panel 25, or Panel 26 for each person on the file. Panel 23 is the panel that started in 2018, Panel 24 is the panel that started in 2019, Panel 25 is the panel that started in 2020, and Panel 26 is the panel that started in 2021.

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2.5.2 MPC Data Indicator (MPCDATA)

MPCDATA is a constructed variable that indicates whether or not MPC data were collected for the outpatient visit. While all outpatient events are sampled into the Medical Provider Component, not all outpatient event records have MPC data associated with them. This is dependent upon the cooperation of the household respondent to provide permission forms to contact the outpatient facility as well as the cooperation of the outpatient facility to participate in the survey.

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2.5.3 Outpatient Visit Event Variables

This file contains variables describing outpatient events reported by respondents in the Outpatient Department section of the MEPS HC questionnaire. The questionnaire contains specific probes for determining details about the outpatient visit. These variables have not been edited.

Visit Details (OPDATEYR-VSTRELCN_M18)

When a person reported having had a visit to a hospital outpatient department or special clinic, the year and month of the outpatient visit was reported (OPDATEYR and OPDATEMM). It also establishes whether the person saw or spoke to a medical doctor (SEEDOC_M18). If the person did not see a specialty doctor (DRSPLTY_M18), or, if the person did not see a physician (i.e., medical doctor), the respondent was asked to identify the type of medical person that was seen (MEDPTYPE_M18). The type of care the person received (VSTCTGRY), and whether or not the visit was related to a specific condition (VSTRELCN_M18) were also determined. Note that response categories with small frequencies may have been recoded to other categories for confidentiality reasons.

Services, Procedures, and Prescription Medicines (LABTEST_M18-MEDPRESC)

Services received during the visit included whether or not the person received lab tests (LABTEST_M18), a sonogram or ultrasound (SONOGRAM_M18), x-rays (XRAYS_M18), a mammogram (MAMMOG_M18), an MRI or CAT scan (MRI_M18), an electrocardiogram / an electroencephalogram (EKG_M18), and a vaccination (RCVVAC_M18). Minimal editing was done across treatment, services, and procedures to ensure consistency across “inapplicable,” “don’t know,” “refused,” and “no services received” values. Due to design changes, beginning in 2017, EEG was combined with EKG. Whether or not a surgical procedure was performed during the visit was asked (SURGPROC). All the service and procedure variables are set to -1 for telehealth events.

Finally, the questionnaire determined if a medicine was prescribed for the person during the visit (MEDPRESC). For a repeat visit event group, if a prescribed medicine is linked to the stem event (MEDPRESC=1), then the value of MEDPRESC is copied to the leaf events without linking the leaf events to the prescribed medicine. MEDPRESC=1 was recoded to -15 for all leaf events.

Telehealth (TELEHEALTHFLAG-VISITTYPE)

The Telehealth (TH) module is asked of all events tagged as TH events by the respondent. As part of the TH module, a question is asked about whether the provider or facility is owned or operated by a hospital. Post-collection, the response to this question is used to reclassify all TH events as either OB or OP. The TH module items were designed to align with the existing OB and OP items to easily allow for reclassifying the event type. All events initially reported as TH also have a categorical variable, VISITTYPE, which indicates whether the visit was over the phone, through real-time video, or some other way.

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2.5.4 Clinical Classification Software Refined

Information on household-reported medical conditions (ICD-10-CM condition codes) and aggregated clinically meaningful categories generated using Clinical Classification Software Refined (CCSR) for each outpatient visit are not provided on this file. For information on ICD-10-CM condition codes and associated CCSR codes, see the MEPS 2021 Medical Conditions file.

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2.5.5 Flat Fee Variables (FFEEIDX, FFOPTYPE, FFBEF21, FFTOT22)
Definition of Flat Fee Payments

A flat fee is the fixed dollar amount a person is charged for a package of health care services provided during a defined period of time. Examples would be: an obstetrician’s fee covering a normal delivery, as well as pre- and post-natal care; or a surgeon’s fee covering surgical procedure along with post-surgical care. A flat fee group is the set of medical services (i.e., events) that are covered under the same flat fee payment. The flat fee groups represented on this file include flat fee groups where at least one of the health care events, as reported by the HC respondent, occurred during 2021. By definition a flat fee group can span multiple years. Furthermore, a single person can have multiple flat fee groups.

It is important to note that certain flat fee bundle types reported by healthcare providers (HC) were identified as having a high likelihood of being simple events misidentified as bundle events. To address this, starting in 2021, HC-reported flat fee bundles were considered as flat fees if the bundle consisted only of dental events, or the bundle started in the previous year and also had events in 2021.

Other HC-reported bundles were not allowed as flat fee bundles, and events in these bundles were treated as simple events. HC-reported bundles that included a mix of emergency room and hospitalization events were treated as linked events. All emergency room expenditures were combined with hospital inpatient expenditures. However, provider-reported flat fees were processed in a similar way to prior years.

Flat Fee Variable Descriptions

Flat Fee ID (FFEEIDX)

As noted in “Record Identifiers,” the variable FFEEIDX uniquely identifies all events that are part of the same flat fee group for a person. On any 2021 MEPS event file, every event that was a part of a specific flat fee group will have the same value for FFEEIDX. Note that prescribed medicine and home health events are never included in a flat fee group and FFEEIDX is not a variable on those event files.

Flat Fee Type (FFOPTYPE)

FFOPTYPE indicates whether the 2021 outpatient visit is the “stem” or “leaf” of a flat fee group. A stem (records with FFOPTYPE = 1) is the initial medical service (event) which is followed by other medical events that are covered under the same flat fee payment. The leaves of the flat fee group (records with FFOPTYPE = 2) are those medical events that are tied back to the initial medical event (the stem) in the flat fee group. These “leaf” records have their expenditure variables set to zero. For the outpatient visits that are not part of a flat fee payment, the FFOPTYPE is set to -1, “INAPPLICABLE.”

Counts of Flat Fee Events that Cross Years (FFBEF21, FFTOT22)

As described in “Definition of Flat Fee Payments”, a flat fee payment covers multiple events and the multiple events could span multiple years. For situations where the outpatient visit occurred in 2021 as a part of a group of events, and some of the events occurred before or after 2021, counts of the known events are provided on the outpatient visit record. Variables indicating events that occurred before or after 2021 are as follows:

FFBEF21 - total number of pre-2021 events in the same flat fee group as the 2021 outpatient visit. This count would not include the 2021 outpatient visit(s).

FFTOT22 - the number of 2022 outpatient visits expected to be in the same flat fee group as the outpatient visit record that occurred in 2021.

If there are no 2020 events on the file, FFBEF21 will be omitted. Likewise, if there are no 2022 events on the file, FFTOT22 will be omitted. If there are no flat fee data related to the records in this file, FFEEIDX and FFOPTYPE will be omitted as well. Please note that the crosswalk in this document lists all possible flat fee variables.

Caveats of Flat Fee Groups

There are 204 outpatient visits that are identified as being part of a flat fee payment group. In general, every flat fee group should have an initial visit (stem) and at least one subsequent visit (leaf). There are some situations where this is not true. For some of these flat fee groups, the initial visit reported occurred in 2021 but the remaining visits that were part of this flat fee group occurred in 2022. In this case, the 2021 flat fee group represented on this file would consist of one event (the stem). The 2022 leaf events that are part of this flat fee group are not represented on the file. Similarly, the household respondent may have reported a flat fee group where the initial visit began in 2020 but subsequent visits occurred during 2021. In this case, the initial visit would not be represented on the file. This 2021 flat fee group would then only consist of one or more leaf records and no stem. Another reason for which a flat fee group would not have a stem and at least one leaf record is that the stem or leaves could have been reported as different event types. Outpatient and office-based medical provider visits are the only two event types allowed in a single flat fee group. The stem may have been reported as an outpatient department visit and the leaves may have been reported as office-based medical provider visits. Please note that the crosswalk in this document lists all possible flat fee variables.

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2.5.6 Expenditure Data
Definition of Expenditures

Expenditures on this file refer to what is paid for outpatient services. More specifically, expenditures in MEPS are defined as the sum of payments for care received for each outpatient visit, including out-of-pocket payments and payments made by private insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, and other sources. The definition of expenditures used in MEPS differs slightly from its predecessors, the 1987 NMES and 1977 NMCES surveys, where “charges” rather than sum of payments were used to measure expenditures. This change was adopted because charges became a less appropriate proxy for medical expenditures during the 1990s due to the increasingly common practice of discounting. Although measuring expenditures as the sum of payments incorporates discounts in the MEPS expenditure estimates, the estimates do not incorporate any payment not directly tied to specific medical care visits, such as bonuses or retrospective payment adjustments paid by third party payers. Currently, charges associated with uncollected liability, bad debt, and charitable care (unless provided by a public clinic or hospital) are not counted as expenditures because there are no payments associated with those classifications. For details on expenditure definitions, please reference the following: “Informing American Health Care Policy” (Monheit, et al., 1999). AHRQ has developed factors to apply to the 1987 NMES expenditure data to facilitate longitudinal analysis. These factors can be accessed via the CFACT data center, and also are available in Zuvekas and Cohen, 2002. For more information, see the data center section of the MEPS website.

Expenditure data related to outpatient visits are broken out by facility and separately billing doctor expenditures. When a facility bills directly for the services provided by physicians and other providers, in MEPS, the facility charge and payments in such cases include the physician and other providers’ charge and payments. This file contains six categories of expenditure variables per visit: basic hospital outpatient facility expenses; expenses for doctors who billed separately from the outpatient facility for any services provided during the outpatient visit; total expenses, which is the sum of the facility and physician expenses; facility charge; physician charge; and total charges, which is the sum of the facility and physician charges. If examining trends in MEPS expenditures, please refer to Section 3.3 for more information.

Data Editing and Imputation Methodologies of Expenditure Variables

The expenditure data included on this file were derived from both the MEPS Household (HC) and the Medical Provider Components (MPC). The MPC contacted medical providers identified by household respondents. The charge and payment data from medical providers were used in the expenditure imputation process to supplement missing household data. For all outpatient visits, MPC data were used if available; otherwise, HC data were used. Missing data for outpatient visits where HC data were not complete and MPC data were not collected, or MPC data were not complete, were derived through the imputation process.

General Data Editing Methodology

Logical edits were used to resolve internal inconsistencies and other problems in the HC and MPC survey-reported data. The edits were designed to preserve partial payment data from households and providers, and to identify actual and potential sources of payment for each household-reported event. In general, these edits accounted for outliers, co-payments or charges reported as total payments, and reimbursed amounts that were reported as out-of-pocket payments. In addition, edits were implemented to correct for misclassifications between Medicare and Medicaid and between Medicare HMOs and private HMOs as payment sources. These edits produced a complete vector of expenditures for some events, and provided the starting point for imputing missing expenditures in the remaining events.

Imputation Methodologies

The predictive mean matching imputation method was used to impute missing expenditures. This procedure uses regression models (based on events with completely reported expenditure data) to predict total expenses for each event. Then, for each event with missing payment information, a donor event with the closest predicted payment with the same pattern of expected payment sources as the event with missing payment was used to impute the missing payment value. The weighted sequential hot-deck procedure was used to impute the missing total charges. This procedure uses survey data from respondents to replace missing data while taking into account the persons’ weighted distribution in the imputation process. The imputations for the flat fee events were carried out separately from the simple events.

Expenditures for services provided by separately billing doctors in hospital settings were also edited and imputed. These expenditures are shown separately from hospital facility charges for hospital inpatient, outpatient, and emergency room care.

Outpatient Visit Data Editing and Imputation

Facility expenditures for outpatient services were developed in a sequence of logical edits and imputations. “Household” edits were applied to sources and amounts of payment for all events reported by HC respondents. “MPC” edits were applied to provider-reported sources and amounts of payment for records matched to household-reported events. Both sets of edits were used to correct obvious errors in the reporting of expenditures. After the data from each source were edited, a decision was made as to whether household- or MPC-reported information would be used in the final editing and predictive mean matching imputations for missing expenditures. The general rule was that MPC data would be used where a household-reported event corresponded to an MPC-reported event (i.e., a matched event), since providers usually have more complete and accurate data on sources and amounts of payment than households.

One of the more important edits separated flat fee events from simple events. This edit was necessary because groups of events covered by a flat fee (i.e., a flat fee bundle) were edited and imputed separately from individual events covered by a single charge (i.e., simple events). (See Section 2.5.5 for more details on flat fee groups).

Logical edits also were used to sort each event into a specific category for the imputations. Events with complete expenditures were flagged as potential donors for the predictive mean matching imputations, while events with missing expenditure data were assigned to various recipient categories. Each event with missing expenditure data was assigned to a recipient category based on the extent of its missing charge and expenditure data. For example, an event with a known total charge but no expenditure information was assigned to one category, while an event with a known total charge and partial expenditure information was assigned to a different category. Similarly, events without a known total charge and no or partial expenditure information were assigned to various recipient categories.

The logical edits produced eight recipient categories in which all events had a common extent of missing data. However, for predictive mean matching imputations, the recipients were grouped into four categories based on the known status of total charge and the sources of payment: 1. Known charge but unknown payment status of at least one potential paying source; 2. Unknown charge and unknown payment status of at least one potential paying source; 3. Known charge and known status of all payment sources; and 4. Unknown charge and known status of all payment sources. Separate predictive mean matching imputations were performed on events in each recipient group. For outpatient events, the donor pool was restricted to events with complete expenditures from the MPC. To improve the reliability of imputation, current year donors and inflation-adjusted prior year donors are used for the predictive mean matching imputations.

The donor pool included “free events” because, in some instances, providers are not paid for their services. These events represent charity care, bad debt, provider failure to bill, and third party payer restrictions on reimbursement in certain circumstances. If free events were excluded from the donor pool, total expenditures would be over-counted because the distribution of free events among complete events (donors) would not be represented among incomplete events (recipients).

For office-based and outpatient events, the donor pool also included events originally reported by providers as paid on a capitated basis. To obtain the fee-for-service (FFS) equivalent payments for these capitated events, a “capitation imputation” was implemented (see the next section). Once imputed with the FFS equivalent payments, these events became donors for all other incomplete events, particularly for events reported by the household as services covered under managed care plans.

Expenditures for services provided by separately billing doctors in hospital settings were also edited and imputed. These expenditures are shown separately from hospital facility charges for hospital inpatient, outpatient, and emergency room.

Capitation Imputation

The weighted sequential hot-deck procedure was used to estimate expenditures at the event-level for events that were paid on a per-month per-person (capitated) basis. The capitation imputation procedure was designed as a reasonable approach to complete event-level expenditures for persons in non-fee for service managed care plans. HMO events reported in the MPC as covered by capitation arrangements were imputed using similar HMO events paid on a fee-for-service, with total charge as a key variable. Then this fully completed set of MPC events was used in the donor pool for the main imputation process for cases in HMOs. By using this strategy, capitated HMO events were imputed as if the provider were reimbursed from the HMO on a discounted fee-for-service basis.

Imputation Flag (IMPFLAG)

IMPFLAG is a six-category variable that indicates if the event contains complete Household Component (HC) or Medical Provider Component (MPC) data, was fully or partially imputed, or was imputed in the capitated imputation process (for OP and OB events only). The following list identifies how the imputation flag is coded; the categories are mutually exclusive.

  • IMPFLAG = 0 not eligible for imputation (includes zeroed out and flat fee leaf events)

  • IMPFLAG = 1 complete HC data

  • IMPFLAG = 2 complete MPC data

  • IMPFLAG = 3 fully imputed

  • IMPFLAG = 4 partially imputed

  • IMPFLAG = 5 complete MPC data through capitation imputation
Flat Fee Expenditures

The approach used to count expenditures for flat fees was to place the expenditure on the first visit of the flat fee group. The remaining visits have zero facility payments, while physician’s expenditures may still be present. Thus, if the first visit in the flat fee group occurred prior to 2021, all of the events that occurred in 2021 will have zero payments. Conversely, if the first event in the flat fee group occurred at the end of 2021, the total expenditure for the entire flat fee group will be on that event, regardless of the number of events it covered after 2021. See Section 2.5.5 for details on the flat fee variables.

Zero Expenditures

There are some medical events reported by respondents where the payments were zero. Zero payment events can occur in MEPS for the following reasons: (1) the visit was covered under a flat fee arrangement (flat fee payments are included only on the first event covered by the arrangement), (2) there was no charge for a follow-up visit, (3) the provider was never paid directly for services provided by an individual, insurance plan, or other source, (4) the charges were included in another bill, or (5) the event was paid through government or privately funded research or clinical trials.

Discount Adjustment Factor

An adjustment was also applied to some HC-reported expenditure data because an evaluation of matched HC/MPC data showed that respondents who reported that charges and payments were equal were often unaware that insurance payments for the care had been based on a discounted charge. To compensate for this systematic reporting error, a weighted sequential hot-deck imputation procedure was implemented to determine an adjustment factor for HC-reported insurance payments when charges and payments were reported to be equal. As for the other imputations, selected predictor variables were used to form groups of donor and recipient events for the imputation process.

Sources of Payment

In addition to total expenditures, variables are provided which itemize expenditures according to major source of payment categories. These categories are:

  1. Out-of-pocket by User (self or family)- includes any deductible, coinsurance, and copayment amounts not covered by other sources, as well as payments for services and providers not covered by the person’s insurance or other sources,

  2. Medicare,

  3. Medicaid,

  4. Private Insurance,

  5. Veterans Administration/CHAMPVA, excluding TRICARE,

  6. TRICARE,

  7. Other Federal Sources - includes Indian Health Service, military treatment facilities, and other care by the federal government,

  8. Other State and Local Source - includes community and neighborhood clinics, state and local health departments, and state programs other than Medicaid,

  9. Workers’ Compensation, and

  10. Other Unclassified Sources - includes sources such as automobile, homeowner’s, and liability insurance, and other miscellaneous or unknown sources.

Prior to 2019, for cases where reported insurance coverage and sources of payment are inconsistent, the positive amount from a source inconsistent with reported insurance coverage was moved to one or both of the source categories Other Private and Other Public. Beginning in 2019, this step is removed and the inconsistency between the payment sources and insurance coverage is allowed to remain - the amounts are not moved to Other Private and Other Public categories any more. The two source of payment categories, Other Private and Other Public, are no longer available.

Imputed Outpatient Expenditure Variables

This file contains two sets of imputed expenditure variables: facility expenditures and physician expenditures.

Outpatient Facility Expenditure Variables (OPFSF21X-OPFOT21X, OPFXP21X, OPFTC21X)

Outpatient visit expenses include all expenses for treatment, services, tests, diagnostic and laboratory work, x-rays, and similar charges, as well as any physician services included in the hospital outpatient visit charge.

OPFSF21X - OPFOT21X are the 10 sources of payment. The 10 sources of payment are: self/family (OPFSF21X), Medicare (OPFMR21X), Medicaid (OPFMD21X), private insurance (OPFPV21X), Veterans Administration/CHAMPVA (OPFVA21X), TRICARE (OPFTR21X), other federal sources (OPFOF21X), state and local (non-federal) government sources (OPFSL21X), Workers’ Compensation (OPFWC21X), and other insurance (OPFOT21X). OPFXP21X is the sum of the 10 sources of payment for the outpatient facility expenditures, and OPFTC21X is the total charge. Please note that where an outpatient visit record is linked to a hospital inpatient stay record, all facility sources of payment variables, as well as OPFTC21X have been zeroed out.

Outpatient Physician Expenditures (OPDSF21X - OPDOT21X, OPDXP21X, OPDTC21X)

Charges for services provided in a hospital setting by physicians and other providers are sometimes billed directly by the hospital. In such cases, these charges are included in the hospital-facility charge and payments. When the charges are not billed directly by the hospital, physicians and other providers bill charges for the provided services directly to the third-party and the patient. In such cases, these providers are called separately billing doctors (SBD). SBD expenses typically cover services provided to patients in hospital settings by providers like anesthesiologists, radiologists, and pathologists, whose charges are often not included in the outpatient facility bill.

For physicians who bill separately (i.e., outside the outpatient facility bill), a separate data collection effort within the Medical Provider Component was performed to obtain the same set of expenditure information from each separately billing doctor. It should be noted that there could be several separately billing doctors associated with a medical event. For example, an outpatient visit could have a radiologist and a pathologist associated with it. If their services are not included in the outpatient visit bill then this is one medical event with 2 separately billing doctors. The imputed expenditure information associated with the separately billing doctors was summed to the event-level and is provided on the file. OPDSF21X - OPDOT21X are the 10 sources of payment, OPDXP21X is the sum of the 10 sources of payments, and OPDTC21X is the physician(s) total charge.

Data users/analysts need to take into consideration whether to analyze facility and SBD expenditures separately, combine them within service categories, or collapse them across service categories (e.g., combine SBD expenditures with expenditures for physician visits to offices and/or outpatient departments).

Total Expenditures and Charges for Outpatient Visits (OPXP21X, OPTC21X)

Data users/analysts interested in total expenditures should use the variable OPXP21X, which includes both facility and physician amounts. Those interested in total charges should use the variable OPTC21X, which includes both facility and physician charges (see “Definition of Expenditures” for an explanation of the “charge” concept).

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2.5.7 Rounding

Expenditure variables have been rounded to the nearest penny. Person-level expenditure information released on the MEPS 2021 Person-Level Use and Expenditure File were rounded to the nearest dollar. It should be noted that using the MEPS 2021 event files to create person-level totals will yield slightly different totals than those found on the person-level expenditure file. These differences are due to rounding only. Moreover, in some instances, the number of persons having expenditures on the event files for a particular source of payment may differ from the number of persons with expenditures on the person-level expenditure file for that source of payment. This difference is also an artifact of rounding only.

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3.0 Survey Sample Information

3.1 Discussion of Pandemic Effects on Quality of 2021 MEPS Data

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3.1.1 Summary

The challenges associated with MEPS data collection in 2020 after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic continued into 2021. The major modifications to the standard MEPS study design remained in effect, permitting data to be collected safely but with accompanying concerns related to the quality of the data obtained. These data quality issues are discussed below. The suggestion made in the documentation for the FY 2020 MEPS Consolidated PUF data (as well as for most federal major in-person surveys conducted in 2021 and 2020) still holds. Researchers are counseled to take care in the interpretation of estimates based on data collected from these two calendar years. This includes the comparison of such estimates to those of other years and corresponding trend analyses.

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3.1.2 Overview

Section 3.1 of the documentation for the 2020 Full Year Consolidated Data File provides a general discussion of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on several other major in-person federal surveys as well as on MEPS. In addition, it offers a detailed look at how MEPS was modified to permit safe data collection and the development of useful estimates at a time when the way the U.S. health care system functioned underwent many transformations in order to meet population needs.

In this corresponding 2021 document, focus is placed mostly on MEPS data quality in 2021. However, it also includes how data quality issues related to the two federal surveys most closely connected to it, the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) carried out by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and the Current Population Survey (CPS) carried out by the Census Bureau, have an impact on the data quality issues of MEPS.

Specifically, the following discussion describes: 1) data quality issues experienced by the NHIS and CPS that affect MEPS; 2) modifications to the MEPS sample design in 2021 due to the continuing pandemic; and 3) potential data quality issues in the FY 2021 MEPS data related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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3.1.3 Data Quality Issues for MEPS in 2021 Directly Associated with Data Quality Concerns for the NHIS and CPS

Households fielded for Round 1 of MEPS in each year have been selected as a subsample from among the NHIS responding households from the prior year. The MEPS first year panel in 2021 was Panel 26. The households fielded for MEPS in Round 1 of Panel 26 were thus selected from NHIS responding households in 2020. It is important to note here that the NHIS households eligible for use in MEPS are restricted to the first three quarters of the NHIS as the fourth quarter households cannot be made available in time for MEPS data collection early in the next calendar year.

The onset of the pandemic in 2020 at a national level took place in mid-March of that year, when the NHIS data collection for the first quarter of 2020 was virtually completed and that of the second quarter was about to begin. The NHIS had to make a rapid transition from in-person to telephone interviewing in order to attempt to gather NHIS data for the second quarter of 2020. While NCHS was able to make the transition, assessments made by NCHS at the time indicated a much lower response rate than is typically experienced during Quarter 2 and the quality of Quarter 2 data was of particular concern. NCHS thus modified the 2020 NHIS sample design for Quarters 3 and 4. A randomly selected subsample of the sampled housing units originally selected for fielding in Quarters 3 and 4 of 2020 was removed from the sample to be fielded. This reduced sample for Quarters 3 and 4 was then enhanced by randomly selecting responding households from the 2019 NHIS for interviewing in 2020 as well. In consideration of the data quality issues and sample design modifications associated with the 2020 NHIS, the MEPS sample design for FY 2021 was modified, as will be discussed shortly.

With respect to the CPS, the quality of CPS data is always of particular importance to MEPS as March CPS-ASEC estimates serve as the basis of control totals for the raking component of the MEPS weighting process. These control totals incorporate the following demographic variables: age, sex, race/ethnicity, region, MSA status, educational attainment, and poverty status. The CPS estimates of educational attainment and poverty status used in the development of the FY 2021 MEPS PUFs were of particular concern. Evaluations of these estimates undertaken by the Census Bureau have shown that they suffered from bias due to survey nonresponse with CPS income estimates being on the high side and the estimate of those under poverty being on the low side. The impact of these CPS estimates on the quality of MEPS estimates has been carefully considered. The approach used for the MEPS Full Year 2021 Consolidated PUF sample weights is discussed in Section 3.5.

A set of references (Bramlett et al., 2021; Dahlhamer et al., 2021; Lau et al, 2021; Rothbaum & Bee, 2021, 2022; Zuvekas & Kashihara, 2021) discussing the fielding of these surveys during the pandemic and possible bias concerns, can be found in the References section of this document.

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3.1.4 Modifications to the MEPS HC 2021 Sample Design

Two key factors were thus expected to raise issues with MEPS plans for fielding a 2021 sample. First, 2020 NHIS data quality and sample size issues were of particular concern for Quarter 2 of that year. Second, roughly half of the NHIS sampled households for Quarter 3 would also have been respondents in the 2019 NHIS so that many of the Quarter 3 NHIS respondents were expected to have already been sampled and fielded for Panel 25 of MEPS. It thus became clear that it would be prudent to modify the 2021 MEPS sample design for MEPS Panel 26. Action had to be taken immediately because the MEPS sample selection from NHIS responding households begins in the late summer/early fall of each year.

AHRQ contacted NCHS, reviewing the various issues and asking if it would be possible that responding households in NHIS Panels 2 and 4 from Quarter 1 of 2020 be made available for MEPS sample selection. Virtually all of these households were interviewed in-person prior to the major onset of the pandemic, so the Quarter 1 response rates for all four NHIS panels were consistent with prior years and the data quality issues associated with the pandemic could be avoided. NCHS was fully supportive of this approach and made NHIS Panels 2 and 4 for Quarter 1 available for use by MEPS. Thus, for MEPS Panel 26, the NHIS responding households subsampled from MEPS were selected from among all NHIS responding households in Quarter 1 as well as those responding in Quarter 3 that were not originally sampled for the 2019 NHIS.

As an adjunct to this modification, it was decided to take advantage of the additional PSUs (sampled localities) available from NHIS Panels 2 and 4 and appearing in the MEPS sample for the first time. State level estimation is of interest to MEPS, and the added PSUs would serve to increase the precision for state level estimates. State estimates that would be expected to benefit the most from these added PSUs were the “middle-sized” states. The largest states already had large sample sizes while precision for the smallest states would remain low. As a result, the MEPS sample focused on oversampling the “middle-sized” states rather than Hispanics, Blacks, and Asians, as has usually been the practice.

Finally, it was decided to collect data for Panels 23 and 24 for nine rounds, so that these two panels will ultimately contribute to MEPS estimates for four calendar years. In so doing, the number of respondents to MEPS will be kept at a relatively high level despite the decline in response rates due to the pandemic. The MEPS FY 2021 PUF records thus consist of data obtained from the following MEPS Panels and corresponding rounds: Panel 23, Rounds 7-9; Panel 24, Rounds 5-7; Panel 25, Rounds 3-5; and Panel 26, Rounds 1-3.

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3.1.5 Data Quality Issues for MEPS for FY 2021

Three sources of potential bias were identified for MEPS for FY 2020: long recall period for Round 6 of Panel 23; switching from in-person to telephone interviewing which likely had a larger impact on Panel 25; and the impact of CPS bias on the MEPS weights. A number of statistically significant differences were found between panels for FY 2020. Those findings are discussed in the documentation for the Full Year 2020 Consolidated PUF.

With this in mind, there were a number of uncertainties for FY 2021 warranting examination. Would Panel 23 data quality increase substantially once the issue of an extensive recall period was eliminated? Would event reporting continue to be generally higher in Panel 25 compared to other panels? Since Panel 26 was the first year MEPS panel in 2021, would Panel 26 estimates tend to be different than those of the other three panels?

Preliminary analyses undertaken to examine the quality of MEPS FY 2021 data appearing on the Full Year 2021 Consolidated PUF have been focused on the comparison of health insurance status distribution (some private insurance, some public insurance, no health insurance) for the MEPS target population between the panels fielded. These comparisons were undertaken for the full sample and the three age groups of 0-17, 18-64, and 65+.

The analyses undertaken thus far suggest no major differences between the four panels for the distribution of health insurance status. Even though slight differences were observed with Panel 25 (e.g., the distribution associated with the age range 18-64 showed a higher percentage of all public insurance compared to the other three panels while those at least 65 years of age showed a lower percentage of some private insurance compared to the other three panels), no statistically significant differences were detected.

Further analyses of MEPS estimates will be conducted as part of the production of the FY 2021 Consolidated PUF to be released later in 2023.

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3.2 Sample Weight (PERWT21F)

There is a single full-year person-level weight (PERWT21F) assigned to each record for each key, in-scope person who responded to MEPS for the full period of time that they were in-scope during 2021. A key person was either a member of a responding NHIS household at the time of the interview or joined a family associated with such a household after being out-of-scope at the time of the NHIS (the latter circumstance includes newborns as well as those returning from military service, an institution, or residence in a foreign country). A person is in-scope whenever they are a member of the civilian noninstitutionalized portion of the U.S. population.

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3.3 Details on Person Weight Construction

The person-level weight PERWT21F was developed in several stages. Person-level weights for Panel 23, Panel 24, Panel 25, and Panel 26 were created separately. The weighting process for each panel included an adjustment for nonresponse over time and calibration to independent population figures. The calibration was initially accomplished separately for each panel by raking the corresponding sample weights for those in-scope at the end of the calendar year to Current Population Survey (CPS) population estimates based on six variables. The six variables used in the establishment of the initial person-level control figures were: educational attainment of the reference person (no degree, high school/GED no college, some college, bachelor’s degree or higher); census region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West); MSA status (MSA, non-MSA); race/ethnicity (Hispanic; Black, non-Hispanic; Asian, non-Hispanic; and other); sex; and age. A 2021 composite weight was then formed by multiplying each weight from Panel 23 by the factor .22, each weight from Panel 24 by the factor .22, each weight from Panel 25 by the factor .25, and each weight from Panel 26 by the factor .31. The choice of factors reflected the relative effective sample sizes of the four panels, helping to limit the variance of estimates obtained from pooling the four samples. The composite weight was raked to the same set of CPS-based control totals.

The standard approach for MEPS weighting is as follows. When the poverty status information derived from income variables becomes available, a final raking is undertaken. The full sample weight appearing on the Population Characteristics PUF for a given year is re-raked, establishing control figures reflecting poverty status rather than educational attainment. Thus, control totals are established using poverty status (five categories: below poverty, from 100 to 125 percent of poverty, from 125 to 200 percent of poverty, from 200 to 400 percent of poverty, at least 400 percent of poverty) as well as the other five variables previously used in the weight calibration.

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3.3.1 MEPS Panel 23 Weight Development Process

The person-level weight for MEPS Panel 23 was developed using the 2020 full-year weight for an individual as a “base” weight for 2020 survey participants present in 2021. For key, in-scope members who joined an RU some time in 2021 after being out-of-scope in 2020, the initially assigned person-level weight was the corresponding 2020 family weight. The weighting process included an adjustment for person-level nonresponse over Rounds 8 and 9 as well as raking to population control figures for December 2021 for key, responding persons in-scope on December 31, 2021. These control totals were derived by scaling back the population distribution obtained from the March 2022 CPS to reflect the December 31, 2021 estimated population total (estimated based on Census projections for January 1, 2022). Variables used for person-level raking included: education of the reference person (three categories: no degree; high school/GED only or some college; Bachelor’s or higher degree); Census region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West); MSA status (MSA, non-MSA); race/ethnicity (Hispanic; Black, non-Hispanic; Asian, non-Hispanic; and other); sex; and age. (It may be noted that for confidentiality reasons, the MSA status variables are no longer released for public use.) The final weight for key, responding persons who were not in-scope on December 31, 2021 but were in-scope earlier in the year was the nonresponse-adjusted person weight without raking.

The 2020 full-year weight used as the base weight for Panel 23 was derived from the 2018 MEPS Round 1 weight and reflected adjustment for nonresponse over the remaining data collection rounds in 2018, 2019, and 2020 as well as raking to the December 2018, December 2019, and December 2020 population control figures.

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3.3.2 MEPS Panel 24 Weight Development Process

The person-level weight for MEPS Panel 24 was developed using the 2020 full-year weight for an individual as a “base” weight for survey participants present in 2021. For key, in-scope members who joined an RU some time in 2021 after being out-of-scope in 2020, the initially assigned person-level weight was the corresponding 2020 family weight. The weighting process included an adjustment for person-level nonresponse over Rounds 6 and 7 as well as raking to the same population control totals for December 2021 used for the MEPS Panel 23 weights for key, responding persons in-scope on December 31, 2021. The same six variables employed for Panel 23 raking (education level, census region, MSA status, race/ethnicity, sex, and age) were also used for Panel 24 raking. Similar to Panel 23, the Panel 24 final weight for key, responding persons not in-scope on December 31, 2021 but in-scope earlier in the year was the nonresponse-adjusted person weight without raking.

Note that the 2020 full-year weight that was used as the base weight for Panel 24 was derived using the 2019 MEPS Round 1 weight and reflected adjustment for nonresponse over the remaining data collection rounds in 2019 and 2020 as well as raking to the December 2019 and December 2020 population control figures.

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3.3.3 MEPS Panel 25 Weight Development Process

The person-level weight for MEPS Panel 25 was developed using the 2020 full year weight for an individual as a “base” weight for survey participants present in 2021.

For key, in-scope members who joined an RU sometime in 2021 after being out-of-scope in 2020, the initially assigned person-level weight was the corresponding 2020 family weight. The weighting process also included an adjustment for person-level nonresponse over Rounds 4 and 5 as well as raking to the same population control figures for December 2021 used for the MEPS Panels 23 and 24 weights for key, responding persons in-scope on December 31, 2021. The same six variables employed for Panels 23 and 24 raking (education level, census region, MSA status, race/ethnicity, sex, and age) were also used for Panel 25 raking. Similar to Panels 23 and 24, the Panel 25 final weight for key, responding persons not in-scope on December 31, 2021 but in-scope earlier in the year was the nonresponse-adjusted person weight without raking.

Note that the 2020 full-year weight that was used as the base weight for Panel 25 was derived using the 2020 MEPS Round 1 weight and reflected adjustment for nonresponse over the remaining data collection rounds in 2020 as well as raking to the December 2020 population control figures.

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3.3.4 MEPS Panel 26 Weight Development Process

The person-level weight for MEPS Panel 26 was developed using the 2021 MEPS Round 1 person-level weight as a “base” weight. The MEPS Round 1 weights incorporated the following components: the original household probability of selection for the NHIS and for the NHIS subsample reserved for MEPS and an adjustment for NHIS nonresponse, the probability of selection for MEPS from NHIS, an adjustment for nonresponse at the dwelling unit level for Round 1, and poststratification to control figures at the person level obtained from the March CPS of the corresponding year. For key, in-scope members who joined an RU after Round 1, the Round 1 DU weight served as a “base” weight.

The weighting process also included an adjustment for nonresponse over the remaining data collection rounds in 2021 as well as raking to the same population control figures for December 2021 used for the MEPS Panel 23, Panel 24, and Panel 25 weights for key, responding persons in-scope on December 31, 2021. The same six variables employed for Panel 23, Panel 24, and Panel 25 raking (education level of the reference person, census region, MSA status, race/ethnicity, sex, and age) were also used for Panel 26 raking. Similar to Panel 23, Panel 24, and Panel 25, the Panel 26 final weight for key, responding persons who were not in-scope on December 31, 2021 but were in-scope earlier in the year was the nonresponse-adjusted person weight without raking.

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3.3.5 The Final Weight for 2021

The final raking of those in-scope at the end of the year has been described above. In addition, the composite weights of three groups of persons who were out-of-scope on December 31, 2021 were adjusted for expected undercoverage. Specifically, the weights of those who were in-scope some time during the year, out-of-scope on December 31, and entered a nursing home during the year and still residing in a nursing home at the end of the year were poststratified to an estimate of the number of persons who were residents of Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing homes for part of the year (approximately 3-9 months) during 2014. This estimate was developed from data on the Minimum Data Set (MDS) of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The weights of persons who died while in-scope were poststratified to corresponding estimates derived using data obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), Underlying Cause of Death, 2018-2021 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released in 2023, the latest available data at the time. Separate decedent control totals were developed for the “65 and older” and “under 65” civilian noninstitutionalized populations.

Overall, the weighted population estimate for the civilian noninstitutionalized population for December 31, 2021 is 327,209,772 (PERWT21F >0 and INSC1231=1). The sum of person-level weights across all persons assigned a positive person-level weight is 331,249,393.

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3.4 Coverage

The target population for MEPS in this file is the 2021 U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population. However, the MEPS sampled households are a subsample of the NHIS households interviewed in 2017 (Panel 23), 2018 (Panel 24), 2019 (Panel 25), and 2020 (Panel 26). New households created after the NHIS interviews for the respective panels and consisting exclusively of persons who entered the target population after 2017 (Panel 23), after 2018 (Panel 24), after 2019 (Panel 25), or after 2020 (Panel 26) are not covered by MEPS. Neither are previously out-of-scope persons who join an existing household but are unrelated to the current household residents. Persons not covered by a given MEPS panel thus include some members of the following groups: immigrants; persons leaving the military; U.S. citizens returning from residence in another country; and persons leaving institutions. The set of uncovered persons constitutes a relatively small segment of the MEPS target population. Those not covered represent a small proportion of the MEPS target population.

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3.5 Using MEPS Data for Trend Analysis

First, of course, we note that there are uncertainties associated with 2020 and 2021 data quality as discussed earlier in the data quality section (Section 3.1). Preliminary evaluations of a set of MEPS estimates of particular importance suggest that they are of reasonable quality. Nevertheless, analysts are advised to exercise caution in interpreting these estimates, particularly in terms of trend analyses since access to health care was substantially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as were related factors such as health insurance and employment status for many people.

MEPS began in 1996, and the utility of the survey for analyzing health care trends expands with each additional year of data; however, when examining trends over time using MEPS, the length of time being analyzed should be considered. In particular, large shifts in survey estimates over short periods of time (e.g. from one year to the next) that are statistically significant should be interpreted with caution unless they are attributable to known factors such as changes in public policy, economic conditions, or MEPS survey methodology.

With respect to methodological considerations, in 2013 MEPS introduced an effort focused on field procedure changes such as interviewer training to obtain more complete information about health care utilization from MEPS respondents with full implementation in 2014. This effort likely resulted in improved data quality and a reduction in underreporting starting in the second half of 2013 and throughout 2014 full year files and have had some impact on analyses involving trends in utilization across years. The changes in the NHIS sample design in 2016 and 2018 could also potentially affect trend analyses. The new NHIS sample design is based on more up-to-date information related to the distribution of housing units across the U.S. As a result, it can be expected to better cover the full U.S. civilian, noninstitutionalized population, the target population for MEPS, as well as many of its subpopulations. Better coverage of the target population helps to reduce the potential for bias in both NHIS and MEPS estimates.

Another change with the potential to affect trend analyses involved major modifications to the MEPS instrument design and data collection process, particularly in the events sections of the instrument. These were introduced in the Spring of 2018 and thus affected data beginning with Round 1 of Panel 23, Round 3 of Panel 22, and Round 5 of Panel 21. Since the Full Year 2017 PUFs were established from data collected in Rounds 1-3 of Panel 22 and Rounds 3-5 of Panel 21, they reflected two different instrument designs. In order to mitigate the effect of such differences within the same full year file, the Panel 22 Round 3 data and the Panel 21 Round 5 data were transformed to make them as consistent as possible with data collected under the previous design. The changes in the instrument were designed to make the data collection effort more efficient and easy to administer. In addition, expectations were that data on some items, such as those related to health care events, would be more complete with the potential of identifying more events. Increases in service use reported since the implementation of these changes are consistent with these expectations. Data users should be aware of possible impacts on the data and especially trend analyses for these data years due to the design transition.

Process changes, such as data editing and imputation, may also affect trend analyses. For example, users should refer to Section 2.5.11 in the 2021 Consolidated file (HC-233) and, for more detail, the documentation for the prescription drug file (HC-229A) when analyzing prescription drug spending over time.

As always, it is recommended that data users review relevant sections of the documentation for descriptions of these types of changes that might affect the interpretation of changes over time before undertaking trend analyses.

Analysts may also wish to consider using statistical techniques to smooth or stabilize analyses of trends using MEPS data such as comparing pooled time periods (e.g. 1996-1997 versus 2011-2012), working with moving averages, or using modeling techniques with several consecutive years of MEPS data to test the fit of specified patterns over time.

Finally, statistical significance tests should be conducted to assess the likelihood that observed trends are not attributable to sampling variation. In addition, researchers should be aware of the impact of multiple comparisons on Type I error. Without making appropriate allowance for multiple comparisons, undertaking numerous statistical significance tests of trends increases the likelihood of concluding that a change has taken place when one has not.

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4.0 Strategies for Estimation

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4.1 Developing Event-Level Estimates

The data in this file can be used to develop national 2021 event-level estimates for the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population on outpatient visits as well as expenditures, and sources of payment for these visits. Estimates of total visits are the sum of the weight variable (PERWT21F) across relevant event records while estimates of other variables must be weighted by PERWT21F to be nationally representative. The tables below contain event-level estimates for selected variables.

Selected Event-Level Estimates

Outpatient Visits

Estimate of Interest Variable Name Estimate (SE) Estimate Excluding Zero Payment Events (SE)*
Total number of outpatient visits (in millions) PERWT21F 291.6 (15.28) 286.4 (15.08)
Total number of in-person visits to doctor (SEEDOC_M18=1, in millions) PERWT21F 131.8 (7.19) 129.8 (7.10)
Proportion of outpatient visits with expenditures > 0* OPXP21X 0.982 (0.0019) -------------


Outpatient Expenditures

Estimate of Interest Variable Name Estimate (SE) Estimate Excluding Zero Payment Events (SE)*
Mean total payments per visit (all sources) OPXP21X $1,067 ($67.0) $1,086 ($68.2)
Mean out-of-pocket payment per visit OPDSF21X +OPFSF21X $87 ($9.6) $88 ($9.8)
Mean proportion of total expenditures paid by private insurance per visit (OPDPV21X+OPFPV21X)/OPXP21X ------------- 0.367 (0.0120)


Expenditures: Physician Visits

Estimate of Interest Variable Name Estimate (SE) Estimate Excluding Zero Payment Events (SE)*
Mean total payments per visit where person saw medical doctor OPXP21X $1,558 ($106.1) $1,583 ($107.8)
Mean out-of-pocket payment per visit where person saw medical doctor OPDSF21X +OPFSF21X $124 ($13.4) $126 ($13.6)
Mean proportion of total expenditures per visit paid by private insurance where person saw medical doctor (OPDPV21X+OPFPV21X)/OPXP21X ------------- 0.366 (0.0147)

* Zero payment events can occur in MEPS for the following reasons: (1) the visit was covered under a flat fee arrangement (flat fee payments are included only on the first event covered by the arrangement), (2) there was no charge for a follow-up visit, (3) the provider was never paid directly for services provided by an individual, insurance plan, or other source, (4) the charges were included in another bill, or (5) the event was paid through government or privately funded research or clinical trials.

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4.2 Person-Based Estimates for Outpatient Visits

To enhance analyses of hospital outpatient visits, analysts may link information about outpatient visits by sample persons in this file to the annual full year consolidated file (which has data for all MEPS sample persons), or conversely, link person-level information from the full year consolidated file to this event-level file (see Section 5 below for more details). Both this file and the full year consolidated file may be used to derive estimates for persons with outpatient care and annual estimates of total expenditures. However, for estimates that pertain to those who did not have hospital outpatient care as well as those who did (for example, the percentage of adults with at least one outpatient event during the past year or the mean number of outpatient events in the past year among those 65 or older), this file cannot be used. Only those persons with at least one outpatient event are represented on this data file. The full year consolidated file must be used for person-level analyses that include both persons with and without hospital outpatient care.

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4.3 Variables with Missing Values

It is essential that the analyst examine all variables for the presence of negative values used to represent missing values. For continuous or discrete variables, where means or totals may be taken, it may be necessary to set negative values to values appropriate to the analytic needs. That is, the analyst should either impute a value or set the value to one that will be interpreted as missing by the software package used. For categorical and dichotomous variables, the analyst may want to consider whether to recode or impute a value for cases with negative values or whether to exclude or include such cases in the numerator and/or denominator when calculating proportions.

Methodologies used for the editing/imputation of expenditure variables (e.g., sources of payment, flat fee, and zero expenditures) are described in Section 2.5.6.

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4.4 Variance Estimation (VARSTR, VARPSU)

To obtain estimates of variability (such as the standard error of sample estimates or corresponding confidence intervals) for MEPS estimates, analysts need to take into account the complex sample design of MEPS for both person-level and family-level analyses. Several methodologies have been developed for estimating standard errors for surveys with a complex sample design, including the Taylor-series linearization method, balanced repeated replication, and jackknife replication. Various software packages provide analysts with the capability of implementing these methodologies. MEPS analysts most commonly use the Taylor Series approach. Although this data file does not contain replicate weights, the capability of employing replicate weights constructed using the Balanced Repeated Replication (BRR) methodology is also provided if needed to develop variances for more complex estimators (see Section 4.4.2).

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4.4.1 Taylor-series Linearization Method

The variables needed to calculate appropriate standard errors based on the Taylor-series linearization method are included on this file as well as all other MEPS public use files. Software packages that permit the use of the Taylor-series linearization method include SUDAAN, R, Stata, SAS (version 8.2 and higher), and SPSS (version 12.0 and higher). For complete information on the capabilities of a package, analysts should refer to the corresponding software user documentation.

Using the Taylor-series linearization method, variance estimation strata and the variance estimation PSUs within these strata must be specified. The variables VARSTR and VARPSU on this MEPS data file serve to identify the sampling strata and primary sampling units required by the variance estimation programs. Specifying a “with replacement” design in one of the previously mentioned computer software packages will provide estimated standard errors appropriate for assessing the variability of MEPS survey estimates. It should be noted that the number of degrees of freedom associated with estimates of variability indicated by such a package may not appropriately reflect the number available. For variables of interest distributed throughout the country (and thus the MEPS sample PSUs), one can generally expect to have at least 100 degrees of freedom associated with the estimated standard errors for national estimates based on this MEPS database.

Prior to 2002, MEPS variance strata and PSUs were developed independently from year to year, and the last two characters of the strata and PSU variable names denoted the year. Beginning with the 2002 Point-in-Time PUF, the approach changed with the intention that variance strata and PSUs would be developed to be compatible with all future PUFs until the NHIS design changed. Thus, when pooling data across years 2002 through the Panel 11 component of the 2007 files, the variance strata and PSU variables provided can be used without modification for variance estimation purposes for estimates covering multiple years of data. There were 203 variance estimation strata, each stratum with either two or three variance estimation PSUs.

From Panel 12 of the 2007 files, a new set of variance strata and PSUs were developed because of the introduction of a new NHIS design. There are 165 variance strata with either two or three variance estimation PSUs per stratum, starting from Panel 12. Therefore, there are a total of 368 (203+165) variance strata in the 2007 full-year file as it consists of two panels that were selected under two independent NHIS sample designs. Since both MEPS panels in the full-year files from 2008 through 2016 are based on the next NHIS design, there are only 165 variance strata. These variance strata (VARSTR values) have been numbered from 1001 to 1165 so that they can be readily distinguished from those developed under the former NHIS sample design if data are pooled for several years.

The NHIS sample design was changed again in 2016, effectively changing the MEPS design beginning with calendar year 2017. From Panel 22 of the 2017 files, a new set of variance strata and PSUs were developed. There are 117 variance strata with either two or three variance estimation PSUs per stratum. Therefore, there are a total of 282 (165+117) variance strata in the 2017 Full Year file as it consists of two panels that were selected under two independent NHIS sample designs. To make the pooling of data across multiple years of MEPS more straightforward, the numbering system for the variance strata has changed. Those strata associated with the new design were numbered from 2001 to 2117.

However, the NHIS sample design was further modified in 2018. With the modification in the 2018 NHIS sample design, the MEPS variance structure for the 2019 Full Year file was also modified, reducing the number of variance strata to 105. Consistency was maintained with the prior structure in that the 2019 Full Year file variance strata were also numbered within the range of values from 2001-2117, although there are now gaps in the values assigned within this range. Due to the modification, each stratum could contain up to five variance estimation PSUs.

For Panel 26 in the 2021 Full Year file, additional NHIS sample was used for MEPS to account for increasing nonresponse during the pandemic (as discussed in Section 3.1.4). The additional sample was assigned to the existing variance strata, so the 2021 Full Year file continues to have 105 variance strata, numbered 2001-2117, with a few gaps in the values in that range. In many cases, the additional sample was assigned to new variance estimation PSUs, so in the 2021 Full Year file, each stratum could contain up to eight variance estimation PSUs.

Some analysts may be interested in pooling data across multiple years of MEPS data. If pooling across years is to be undertaken, it should be noted that, to obtain appropriate standard errors when doing so, it is necessary to specify a common variance structure. Prior to 2002, each annual MEPS public use file was released with a variance structure unique to the particular MEPS sample in that year. Starting in 2002, the annual MEPS public use files were released with a common variance structure that allowed users to pool data from 2002 through 2018. However, with the need to modify the variance structure beginning with 2019, this can no longer be routinely done.

To ensure that variance strata are identified appropriately for variance estimation purposes when pooling MEPS data across several years, one can proceed as follows:

  1. When pooling any year between 2002 through 2018, use the variance strata numbering as is.

  2. When pooling (a) any year from 1996 to 2001 with any year from 2002 or later, or (b) the year 2019 and beyond with any earlier year, use the pooled linkage public use file HC-036 that contains the proper variance structure. The HC-036 file is updated every year so that appropriate variance structures are available with pooled data. Further details on the HC-036 file can be found in the public use documentation of the HC-036 file.

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4.4.2 Balanced Repeated Replication (BRR) Method

BRR replicate weights are not provided on this MEPS PUF for the purposes of variance estimation. However, a file containing a BRR replication structure is made available so that the users can form replicate weights, if desired, from the final MEPS weight to compute variances of MEPS estimates using either BRR or Fay’s modified BRR (Fay, 1989) methods. The replicate weights are useful to compute variances of complex non-linear estimators for which a Taylor linear form is not easy to derive and not available in commonly used software. For instance, it is not possible to calculate the variances of a median or the ratio of two medians using the Taylor linearization method. For these types of estimators, users may calculate a variance using BRR or Fay’s modified BRR methods. However, it should be noted that the replicate weights have been derived from the final weight through a shortcut approach. Specifically, the replicate weights are not computed starting with the base weight and all adjustments made in different stages of weighting are not applied independently in each replicate. Thus, the variances computed using this one-step BRR do not capture the effects of all weighting adjustments that would be captured in a set of fully developed BRR replicate weights. The Taylor Series approach does not fully capture the effects of the different weighting adjustments either.

The data set, HC-036BRR, MEPS 1996-2021 Replicates for Variance Estimation File, contains the information necessary to construct the BRR replicates. It contains a set of 128 flags (BRR1-BRR128) in the form of half sample indicators, each of which is coded 0 or 1 to indicate whether the person should or should not be included in that particular replicate. These flags can be used in conjunction with the full-year weight to construct the BRR replicate weights. For analysis of MEPS data pooled across years, the BRR replicates can be formed in the same way using the HC-036, MEPS 1996-2021 Pooled Linkage Variance Estimation File. For more information about creating BRR replicates, users can refer to the documentation for the HC-036BRR pooled linkage file on the AHRQ website.

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5.0 Merging/Linking MEPS Data Files

Data from this file can be used alone or in conjunction with other files for different analytic purposes. Merging characteristics of interest from other MEPS files expands the scope of potential estimates. For example, the medical event files can be merged with the person-level Full Year Consolidated File to calculate event-level estimates for persons with specific characteristics (e.g., age, race, sex, and education).

Most of the event files can also be linked to the Medical Conditions file by using the condition-event link (CLNK) file. When using the CLNK, data users should keep in mind that (1) conditions are household reported, (2) there may be multiple conditions associated with a medical event, (3) one condition may link to more than one event and (4) not all medical events link to the medical conditions file.

In addition to linking to other MEPS files, each MEPS panel can also be linked back to the previous year’s National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) public use data files. This is because the set of households selected for MEPS is a subsample of those participating in the NHIS. For information on obtaining MEPS/NHIS link files please see the MEPS website.

References

Bramlett, M.D., Dahlhamer, J.M., & Bose, J. (2021, September). Weighting Procedures and Bias Assessment for the 2020 National Health Interview Survey. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chowdhury, S.R., Machlin, S.R., & Gwet, K.L. Sample Designs of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Household Component, 1996-2006 and 2007-2016. Methodology Report #33. January 2019. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

Cohen, S.B. (1996). The Redesign of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey: A Component of the DHHS Survey Integration Plan. Proceedings of the COPAFS Seminar on Statistical Methodology in the Public Service.

Current Population Survey: 2021 Annual Social and Economic (ASEC) Supplement. (2021). U.S. Census Bureau.

Dahlhamer, J.M., Bramlett, M.D., Maitland, A., & Blumberg, S.J. (2021). Preliminary evaluation of nonresponse bias due to the COVID-19 pandemic on National Health Interview Survey estimates, April-June 2020. National Center for Health Statistics.

Fay, R.E. (1989). Theory and Application of Replicate Weighting for Variance Calculations. Proceedings of the Survey Research Methods Sections, ASA, 212-217.

Lau, D.T., Sosa, P., Dasgupta, N., & He, H. (2021). Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Public Health Surveillance and Survey Data Collections in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 111 (12), pp. 2118-2121.

Monheit, A.C., Wilson, R., and Arnett, III, R.H. (Editors). (1999). Informing American Health Care Policy. Jossey-Bass Inc, San Francisco.

Rothbaum, J. & Bee, A. (2021, May 3). Coronavirus Infects Surveys, Too: Survey Nonresponse Bias and the Coronavirus Pandemic. U.S. Census Bureau.

Rothbaum, J. & Bee, A. (2022, September 13). How Has the Pandemic Continued to Affect Survey Response? Using Administrative Data to Evaluate Nonresponse in the 2022 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement. U.S. Census Bureau.

RTI International (2019). Medical Provider Component (MEPS-MPC) Methodology Report 2017 Data Collection. Rockville, MD. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Shah, B.V., Barnwell, B.G., Bieler, G.S., Boyle, K.E., Folsom, R.E., Lavange, L., Wheeless, S.C., and Williams, R. (1996). Technical Manual: Statistical Methods and Algorithms Used in SUDAAN Release 7.0, Research Triangle Park, NC: Research Triangle Institute.

Zuvekas, S.H. and J.W. Cohen. A guide to comparing health care expenditures in the 1996 MEPS to the 1987 NMES. Inquiry. 2002 Spring;39(1):76-86.

Zuvekas, S.H. & Kashihara, D. (2021). The Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. American Journal of Public Health, 111 (12), pp. 2157-2166.

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D. Variable-Source Crosswalk

MEPS HC-229F: 2021 OUTPATIENT DEPARTMENT VISITS

Survey Administration Variables

Variable Description Source
DUID Panel # + encrypted DU identifier Assigned in sampling
PID Person number Assigned in sampling
DUPERSID Person ID (DUID + PID) Assigned in sampling
EVNTIDX Event ID Assigned in sampling
EVENTRN Event Round number CAPI derived
PANEL Panel number Constructed
FFEEIDX Flat Fee ID CAPI derived
MPCDATA MPC data flag Constructed

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Outpatient Department Visit Variables

Variable Description Source
OPDATEYR Event date - year CAPI derived
OPDATEMM Event date - month CAPI derived
SEEDOC_M18 Did person talk to MD this visit OP10
DRSPLTY_M18 OPAT doctor’s specialty OP20
MEDPTYPE_M18 Type of medical P talked to on visit date OP30
VSTCTGRY Best category for care P received on visit date OP40
VSTRELCN_M18 This visit/phone call related to spec condition OP50
LABTEST_M18 This visit did P have lab tests OP80
SONOGRAM_M18 This visit did P have sonogram or ultrasound OP80
XRAYS_M18 This visit did P have x-rays OP80
MAMMOG_M18 This visit did P have a mammogram OP80
MRI_M18 This visit did P have an MRI/Catscan OP80
EKG_M18 This visit did P have an EKG, EEG or ECG OP80
RCVVAC_M18 This visit did P receive a vaccination OP80
SURGPROC Was surgical procedure performed on P this visit OP70
MEDPRESC Any medicine prescribed for P during visit OP90
TELEHEALTHFLAG Is this a telehealth event Constructed
VISITTYPE Type of telehealth visit TH10

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Flat Fee Variables

Variable Description Source
FFOPTYPE Flat fee bundle Constructed
FFBEF21 Total # of visits in FF before 2021 FF50
FFTOT22 Total # of visits in FF after 2021 FF60

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Imputed Total Expenditure Variables

Variable Description Source
OPXP21X Total expenditure for event (OPFXP21X+OPDXP21X) Constructed
OPTC21X Total charge for event (OPFTC21X+OPDTC21X) Constructed

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Imputed Facility Expenditure Variables

Variable Description Source
OPFSF21X Facility amount paid, self/family (Imputed) CP Section (Edited)
OPFMR21X Facility amount paid, Medicare (Imputed) CP Section (Edited)
OPFMD21X Facility amount paid, Medicaid (Imputed) CP Section (Edited)
OPFPV21X Facility amount paid, private insurance (Imputed) CP Section (Edited)
OPFVA21X Facility amount paid, Veterans/CHAMPVA (Imputed) CP Section (Edited)
OPFTR21X Facility amount paid, TRICARE (Imputed) CP Section (Edited)
OPFOF21X Facility amount paid, other federal (Imputed) CP Section (Edited)
OPFSL21X Facility amount paid, state & local government (Imputed) CP Section (Edited)
OPFWC21X Facility amount paid, workers’ compensation (Imputed) CP Section (Edited)
OPFOT21X Facility amount paid, other insurance (Imputed) CP Section (Edited)
OPFXP21X Facility sum payments OPFSF21X - OPFOT21X Constructed
OPFTC21X Total facility charge (Imputed) CP Section (Edited)

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Imputed Physician Expenditure Variables

Variable Description Source
OPDSF21X Doctor amount paid, self/family (Imputed) Constructed
OPDMR21X Doctor amount paid, Medicare (Imputed) Constructed
OPDMD21X Doctor amount paid, Medicaid (Imputed) Constructed
OPDPV21X Doctor amount paid, private insurance (Imputed) Constructed
OPDVA21X Doctor amount paid, Veterans/CHAMPVA (Imputed) Constructed
OPDTR21X Doctor amount paid, TRICARE (Imputed) Constructed
OPDOF21X Doctor amount paid, other federal (Imputed) Constructed
OPDSL21X Doctor amount paid, state & local government (Imputed) Constructed
OPDWC21X Doctor amount paid, workers’ compensation (Imputed) Constructed
OPDOT21X Doctor amount paid, other insurance (Imputed) Constructed
OPDXP21X Doctor sum payments OPDSF21X - OPDOT21X Constructed
OPDTC21X Total doctor charge (Imputed) Constructed
IMPFLAG Imputation status Constructed

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Weights Variables

Variable Description Source
PERWT21F Expenditure file person weight, 2021 Constructed
VARSTR Variance estimation stratum, 2021 Constructed
VARPSU Variance estimation PSU, 2021 Constructed

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