The Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey

Am J Public Health. 2021 Dec;111(12):2157-2166. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2021.306534.


The COVID-19 pandemic caused substantial disruptions in the field operations of all 3 major components of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). The MEPS is widely used to study how policy changes and major shocks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, affect insurance coverage, access, and preventive and other health care utilization and how these relate to population health. We describe how the MEPS program successfully responded to these challenges by reengineering field operations, including survey modes, to complete data collection and maintain data release schedules. The impact of the pandemic on response rates varied considerably across the MEPS. Investigations to date show little effect on the quality of data collected. However, lower response rates may reduce the statistical precision of some estimates. We also describe several enhancements made to the MEPS that will allow researchers to better understand the impact of the pandemic on US residents, employers, and the US health care system. (Am J Public Health. 2021;111(12):2157-2166.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • Electronic Health Records / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage / organization & administration
  • Insurance Coverage / statistics & numerical data
  • Pandemics
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Population Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Quality of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / statistics & numerical data*
  • Telemedicine / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology