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 26 sample
persons were drawn from the 2020 NHIS while Panel 27 sample persons were drawn from the 2021 NHIS.
The MEPS-HC collects data from a nationally representative sample of households, where a new panel of sample
households is selected each year. Historically, each surveyed household was interviewed five times (rounds) over a
two-year period, which provides continuous and current estimates of health care expenditures at both the person and
household level. However, in the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic created significant challenges to in-person
data collection. To offset the decrease in the number of cases for 2020 data, Panels 23 and 24 were extended to nine
rounds (four years) of data collection.
The chart below illustrates the timing and relationship between panels, rounds, and calendar years. For example,
looking at the data collection by panel, Panel 25 consists of five rounds of interviews, with Rounds 1-3 providing
data for 2020 and Rounds 3-5 providing data for 2021. Looking at the data collection by year, data for the year 2022
consists of data collected from Rounds 7-9 of Panel 24, Rounds 3-5 of Panel 26, and Rounds 1-3 of Panel 27.
Each round of MEPS-HC interviews collects information pertaining to a specific time period called a reference period.
Using Panel 25 as an example, the reference period for the first interview of Panel 25 began on January 1, 2020, and
ended on the date of each reporting unit's Round 1 interview. The reference periods for Rounds 2-5 varied from
household to household and covered the time between interview dates of the previous round and the current round.
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. Some sections are included in every
round of data collection, while other sections are only included in one or two rounds.
Any single question must be considered within the context of the skip patterns incorporated into the questionnaire.
Some questions appear in several potential paths 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.