In order to fill this data gap, the employers of MEPS HC jobholders are contacted through the MEPS Insurance Component, an establishment (or employer), rather than household-based, survey. Employers are asked about health insurance offerings, premiums, employee contributions to premiums and other plan details for their establishment as a whole. This information is then linked, via a data file, to data collected during the household survey for the jobholder to provide a more complete picture of the jobholder's insurance options.
MEPS HC-IC link data cannot be released on a Public Use File so that the confidentiality of employers responding to the MEPS IC survey is protected. Unlike person-level files from the MEPS HC, where confidentiality of individuals can be more easily preserved by withholding some data elements and top-coding others, it is far more difficult to produce a file that protects the identity of responding establishments.
However, confidential files containing the linked health insurance information for jobholders are available for research purposes through the AHRQ Data Center. Data users must apply in advance to get access to the Data Center and there are significant restrictions on what data can be taken out of the Center. Potential users should also note that significant survey non-response, compounded by the multiple stages of the collection process, prevents these linked data from being used to make nationally representative estimates and results cannot be generalized beyond the sample of persons included in the file. Thus, no weight has been constructed for these files.
Users interested in looking at employer-based health insurance over multiple years should be aware that the 1996 link file is different than the 1997 and later files. In 1996, the MEPS IC surveyed each employer about the coverage and choices for the specific jobholder identified in the MEPS HC. For 1997 and beyond, the MEPS IC collected information about the establishment's overall health insurance offerings, not about the MEPS HC jobholder's choices. A complex matching process was used to identify which employer-offered plan was selected by the jobholder, if coverage was obtained. There are other significant differences in the resulting data files. Consult the survey documentation for specifics.
Detailed documentation of the research files for 1996, including additional survey details, a crosswalk of variables to the MEPS IC questionnaires, the codebook, and a file containing matched and held plans for federal employees in the HC survey are available for download.