MEPS Home Medical Expenditure Panel Survey
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Frequently Asked Questions

Household FAQs


1. How was I selected?
2. How was my household chosen?
3. How do I know this is a legitimate survey?
4. Is my information going to be confidential?
5. What is meant by a "panel"?
6. What kinds of questions will be asked?
7. Who participates?
8. What is involved in participating?
9. How can I best prepare for my interview?
10. What do households receive if they participate in the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey?
11. Why is it so important for me to participate?
12. Whom do I contact if I have questions?
13. What if I move?


1. How was I selected?
You were selected because your household had participated in the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) the year before your entry into MEPS. The NHIS interview was conducted by a representative of the U.S. Census Bureau.

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2. How was my household chosen?
You may remember participating in another U.S. Department of Health and Human Services survey last year, the National Health Interview Survey. Certain households from that survey were selected to serve as a representative sample of the country; as one of those households, you represent thousands of others that were not selected.

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3. How do I know this is a legitimate survey?
The Department of Health and Human Services chose Westat (http://www.westat.com), a nationally recognized survey research organization located in metropolitan Washington, DC, to manage the collection of study information. Westat employs over 500 professionally trained interviewers who conduct MEPS interviews throughout the country. Each interviewer has received in-depth training and wears a MEPS picture identification badge.

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4. Is my information going to be confidential?
This survey is authorized under 42 U.S.C. 299a. The confidentiality of your responses to this survey is protected by Sections 944(c) and 308(d) of the Public Health Service Act [42 U.S.C. 299c-3(c) and 42 U.S.C. 242m(d)]. Information that could identify you will not be disclosed unless you have consented to that disclosure. All personally identifiable information such as names or addresses will be removed before information from this survey is released to researchers outside the Department of Health and Human Services.

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5. What is meant by a "panel"?
A panel is a sample of households scientifically selected to participate in the study over a period of time. Each year a new panel or sample of households throughout the country is introduced into the study. The new sample is made up of households that participated in the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) the previous year. Information is collected about each household's medical use and expenses over a two-year period beginning with January 1 of the year the household enters the study and ending December 31 of the following year.

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6. What kinds of questions will be asked?
The survey will ask questions about visits to health care providers and about the costs of those visits. All types of health care providers are included: hospitals, doctor's offices and clinics, visits for blood tests, x-rays or other tests, visits to dentists, and other types of providers such as chiropractors, physical therapists, and optometrists. The survey will also ask about health-related purchases such as prescription medicines, eyeglasses or contact lenses, diabetic supplies, and equipment.

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7. Who participates?
Families and individuals in scientifically selected communities throughout the United States participate in the MEPS household survey. Participants are chosen to represent the country as a whole and include individuals and families from a wide variety of ages, incomes, geographic settings, and racial/ethnic backgrounds.

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8. What is involved in participating?

  • A survey representative will contact you to schedule an interview at your convenience. There will be five interviews over the course of about two and one-half years. Each interview averages 1 1/2 hours depending on such factors as the size of the household.
  • In many households, one knowledgeable adult household member answers questions for the entire family. However, we encourage all household members to keep records and to participate in the MEPS Interview by reporting on their own experiences.
  • The survey will ask questions about visits to health care providers and about the costs of those visits. All types of health care providers are included: hospitals, doctor's offices and clinics, visits for blood tests, x-rays or other tests, visits to dentists, and other types of providers such as chiropractors, physical therapists, and optometrists. The survey will also ask about health-related purchases such as prescription medicines, eyeglasses or contact lenses, diabetic supplies, and equipment.
  • For a detailed list of the types of health care information MEPS collects, click on the Examples of Health Care Important to MEPS (PDF 174 KB).

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9. How can I best prepare for my interview?
Having records to look at during the interview can be very helpful. Examples of the types of records used by MEPS participants include:

  • a calendar which can be on your phone, computer, or on paper
  • computerized health care records from your provider or patient portal
  • appointment cards, bills or explanation of benefits from your health insurance provider
  • medicine bottles or receipts.
Some MEPS participants use the MEPS Record Keeper as an easy way to track health care and provider information. To download a copy of the Record Keeper for your use, there are two versions to choose from, namely: (1) simple form (PDF 375 KB), a simple PDF that people can print out and use a hard copy, or (2) fillable form (PDF 263 KB), can be downloaded and saved to the person’s own computer, designed so that the person can fill it out electronically and keep it for use during the MEPS interview.

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10. What do households receive if they participate in the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey?
Households who participate in the study receive a gift of $50 at the end of each completed interview to thank them for their participation.

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11. Why is it so important for me to participate?
Your household has been selected to represent thousands of other households like yours across the country. We cannot replace you if you do not participate, and households like yours may not be adequately represented in the study. By participating in MEPS, you are performing a valuable public service to help policymakers better understand America's health care needs and how best to meet them.

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12. Whom do I contact if I have questions?
A toll-free hotline number has been established for you to call: 1-800-945-6377. A study representative will answer your questions or requests for additional information. Field staff located in your geographic area will also be able to assist you. If you have received a business card from a regional supervisor, you may contact him or her directly (also on a toll-free line). If you prefer to e-mail us, the address is AlexScott@westat.com.

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13. What if I move?
If your address or telephone number changes, please complete and return the Change of Address card mailed to you with other study materials. No postage is necessary. You may also call the toll-free hotline (1-800-945-6377) to report any address or phone changes.

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