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Agency for Healthcare Research Quality www.ahrq.gov
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MEPS-HC Panel Design and Data Collection Process

The Household Component of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS-HC) is a nationally representative survey of the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population. The sampling frame is drawn from respondents to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which is conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. For example, Panel 19 sample persons are drawn from the 2013 NHIS while Panel 20 sample persons are drawn from the 2014 NHIS.

The MEPS-HC collects data from a nationally representative sample of households through an overlapping panel design. A new panel of sample households is selected each year, and data for each panel are collected for two calendar years. The two years of data for each panel are collected in five rounds of interviews that take place over a two and a half year period. This provides continuous and current estimates of health care expenditures at both the person and household level for two panels for each calendar year.

The chart below illustrates the timing and relationship between panels, rounds, and calendar years. For example, looking at the data collection by panel, Panels 18 and 19 consist of five rounds of interviews with Rounds 3-5 and Rounds 1-3 providing data for 2014. Looking at the data collection by year, data for the year 2015 consists of data collected from Rounds 3-5 of Panel 19 and Rounds 1-3 of Panel 20.

The chart displays the timing and relationship between panels, rounds, and calendar years. 
              	The data collection by panel: 
              	Panel 17 consists of three rounds of interviews in 2013 (Rounds 3-5). 
              	Panel 18 consists of five rounds of interviews; with Rounds 1-3 providing data for 2013 and Rounds 3-5 providing data for 2014. 
              	Panel 19 consists of five rounds of interviews; with Rounds 1-3 providing data for 2014 and Rounds 3-5 providing data for 2015. 
              	Panel 20 consists of three rounds of interviews; with Rounds 1-3 providing data for 2015. 
              	The data collection by year: 
                Year 2013 consists of data collected from Rounds 3-5 of Panel 17 and Rounds 1-3 of Panel 18. 
                	The sample size for 2013 was 35,068 persons with a positive weight on the file. 
                Year 2014 consists of data collected from Rounds 3-5 of Panel 18 and Rounds 1-3 of Panel 19. 
                	The sample size for 2014 was 33,162 persons with a positive weight on the file. 
                Year 2015 consists of data collected from Rounds 3-5 of Panel 19 and Rounds 1-3 of Panel 20. 
                	The sample size for 2015 was 33,893 persons with a positive weight on the file.

Each round of MEPS-HC interviews collects information pertaining to a specific time period called a reference period. Using Panel 19 as an example, the reference period for the first interview of Panel 19 began on January 1, 2014, and ended on the date of each reporting unit's Round 1 interview, conducted from February through June 2014. The reference periods for Rounds 2, 3, and 4 varied from household to household and covered the time between interview dates of the previous round and the current round. The last reference period of Panel 19 (Round 5) ended on December 31, 2015. (December 31st of the second calendar year is always the end of the last reference period.)

MEPS is a large-scale and comprehensive data collection effort that includes many types of survey questions, some of which only pertain to subsets of the diverse respondents participating in the survey. To accommodate the extensive array of questions covered, yet minimize the number of questions asked of each respondent, data are collected using an intricate system of skip patterns and questionnaire modules grouped into sections. Computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) using a laptop computer makes it possible to field such a complex data collection instrument.

Since data are collected using CAPI, rather than a hard copy questionnaire, the data collection instrument actually consists of sections that are composed of a series of computer screens containing questions, interviewing instructions, and skip pattern directions, as well as computer programming notes embedded along with each data item. The MEPS data collection in a given round consists of different sections. Some sections are included in every round of data collection. Other sections are only included in one or two rounds—this type of section is also referred to as a supplement.

Any single question must be considered within the context of the skip patterns incorporated into the questionnaire. Some questions appear in several CAPI screens because of the variety of skip patterns that lead to the question. The question is only asked when the skip pattern determines that it should be asked of that respondent. Items asking the same question of various respondents typically map back to a single variable in the database.

Click here to go to the MEPS-HC survey questionnaires. Click here to go to the MEPS-HC Survey Basics.


Suggested Citation:
MEPS-HC Panel Design and Collection Process, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, Md. http://www.meps.ahrq.gov/mepsweb/survey_comp/hc_data_collection.jsp