The medical expenditure panel survey: a national information resource to support healthcare cost research and inform policy and practice

Med Care. 2009 Jul;47(7 Suppl 1):S44-50. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e3181a23e3a.


Background: The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) collects detailed information regarding the use and payment for health care services from a nationally representative sample of Americans. The survey is designed to provide analysts with the data they need to support policy-relevant research on health care expenses, utilization, insurance coverage, and access in the United States and to provide policymakers with the results and data they need to make informed decisions.

Objectives: This article summarizes the capacity of this broad-based and publicly available information resource to support research efforts directed towards achieving a better understanding of the dynamics of American healthcare and to better characterize its current state.

Methods: The MEPS comprises a nationally representative sample of the civilian noninstitutionalized population in the United States, and collects comprehensive data on individuals and their health care experiences over a span of 2 years. Household survey data are collected by means of computer-assisted personal interviews, and those data are supplemented by information collected directly from the medical providers used by survey participants. Insurance data are collected both from households and through a separate state and nationally representative survey of business establishments, which collects information on health insurance provided by United States employers.

Results: The MEPS has been used extensively in scientific publications and published reports, as well as by the Federal and state governments to examine the delivery and financing of healthcare in the United States.

Conclusions: The analytical findings generated by the MEPS are key inputs to facilitate the development, implementation, and evaluation of policies and practices addressing health care in the United States and its related costs. Recent efforts to reconcile MEPS and the National Health Expenditure Accounts have the potential to provide an even more accurate and powerful data tool for research and policy analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Health Care Costs*
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Expenditures*
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Research / methods*
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Insurance, Health / economics*
  • United States
  • United States Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality