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MEPS-IC Sample Design and Data Collection Process

The Insurance Component of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS-IC) is an annual survey of employers that collects information on the employer’s health insurance offerings. There are two distinct samples fielded in the MEPS IC survey: the List sample and the Household (link) sample. While these samples are designed to address different survey goals, the two have been combined to make data collection more efficient. The U.S. Census Bureau serves as the data collection agent for the MEPS-IC survey.

MEPS-IC List sample. The MEPS-IC List sample is an independently drawn, nationwide sample of establishments and state/local governments. This sample is specifically designed to make national and state estimates each year. Tables of estimates, derived from the List sample, are posted on the MEPS Web site. The List sample is drawn from the Business Register, a confidential list of establishments in the United States maintained by the Census Bureau and from the Governments Master Address File, a frame maintained by the Census Bureau and updated continuously. Due to the confidentiality requirements surrounding any samples drawn from the Business Register, there can be no Public Use Files released with micro data. For researchers, the MEPS-IC List sample microdata can only be accessed through the Federal Statistical Research Data Centers. The data are not available at the AHRQ Data Center and the List sample is not linked to the MEPS Household Component (MEPS-HC) survey.

MEPS-IC Household sample (1996-2001). The MEPS-IC Household sample (also known as the Link sample or the Household Link sample) was a sample of employers that were identified by respondents in the MEPS-HC as their main employer or secondary employer that was the source of their health insurance. This sample was collected only from 1996 through 2001. This sample was directly linkable to the MEPS-HC survey and was specifically designed for that purpose. The Household sample does not support the making of national- or state-level estimates. While the Household sample was not derived from a confidential frame, the promise of confidentiality given to respondents makes it impossible to issue a public use file with the microdata. Go to Household Component/Insurance Component Link Files for more information on how researchers can access these files.

Data collection methods. The MEPS-IC uses multiple data collection methods. Establishments (and governmental units) are initially screened by telephone to confirm their mailing addresses and to establish a point-of-contact with a knowledgeable respondent. If an establishment does not offer health insurance to any of its employees, the noninsurance questions about establishment and firm characteristics are asked at that time, thus completing the survey by telephone.

Establishments that offer health insurance and those that do not respond to the telephone screening are mailed survey questionnaires. The mailing consists of an establishment-level questionnaire and separate questionnaires for the health insurance plans offered. A second mailing is sent if a response to the first mailing is not received within a three-week period. If the establishment does not return either mailing, it is called and interviewed over the telephone. A computer-assisted telephone interview questionnaire is used at this stage to conduct the interview and enter the establishment’s responses directly into a database. Large companies and governments are occasionally interviewed in person due to the large amount of data being requested of them.

The health insurance plan questions are asked for each offered plan, up to a maximum of four plans. Most companies do not offer more than four plans. However, if an establishment indicates during the telephone prescreening interview that it offers more than four plans, the names of all the plans are collected and then plan-level questionnaires are sent for those plans with the largest enrollments—but making sure that we get at least one plan of each type offered.

The MEPS-IC data tables are published annually. Effective with the 2008 MEPS-IC survey, private sector tables are posted on the MEPS Web site in July and the public sector tables in November of the year after the data are collected. For example, data used to create the 2008 MEPS-IC tables were collected in 2008, and the tables posted in July and November 2009.

Go to Survey Questionnaires Insurance Component to access the main questionnaires used in the collection of the MEPS-IC survey.

Suggested Citation:
MEPS-IC Sample Design and Data Collection Process. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, Md.



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