Assessment of Major Federal Data Sets for Analyses of Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander Subgroups and Native Americans: Inventory of Selected Existing Federal Databases. Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS)


Sponsoring agency

National Center for Health Statistics
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Department of Health and Human Services


Reference date



The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) is a nationally representative survey of health care use, medical expenditures, sources of payment, and insurance coverage for both the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population and nursing homes and their residents. Both individual and family level information on health care utilization and expenses are collected.

MEPS comprises four component surveys: the Household Component (HC), the Medical Provider Component (MPC), the Insurance Component (IC), and the Nursing Home Component (NHC). The HC serves as the core survey from which the MPC sample and part of the IC sample are derived. Data from the HC survey are then linked with additional information collected from medical providers, employers, and insurance providers. Respondent panels are drawn from persons interviewed in the National Health Interview Survey; currently, they are interviewed for five rounds over a 2 ½ year period.

The detailed demographic characteristics collected from households include race/ethnicity, health conditions, health status, use of medical care services, charges and payments, access to care, satisfaction with care, health insurance coverage, income, and employment. The MPC contacts medical providers identified by respondents to supplement and validate information on reported medical care events. The IC collects data on health insurance plans obtained through employers, unions, or other private health insurance sources. Lastly, the NHC develops information on the characteristics, health care use, and expenditures by nursing home residents and the characteristics of nursing home facilities.


Since MEPS currently (1999) draws its sample from persons interviewed previously in the National Health Interview Survey, the race/ethnicity data collected during the NHIS interview are available. However, the information is also obtained directly during the initial interview. Potentially, then, MEPS has available to it the full race/ethnic detail collected in the NHIS, which is consistent with the revised OMB standards. MEPS currently provides data for selected Hispanic subpopulations, but none for the API subpopulations groups.

Interviewing policy

Bilingual interviewers, especially Spanish-speaking, are used regularly. Other language skills are located as required. The CAPI system contains a Spanish-language version of the interview form.

Sample size

The MEPS sample introduced in 1999 contained 18,028 persons of all ages, selected from the 1998 NHIS. The sample sizes shown in Appendix Tables A-1 to A-3 include both the 1999 Panel (and reflect the oversampling of Hispanics and Blacks in the responding NHIS households) and some 12,000 persons from the 1998 panel, which was in its second year of data collection and overlapped the first year for the 1999 panel. Further, "peak" years, with larger sample sizes are planned at 5 year intervals. Because of the planned variation in sample size from year to year, users of these data should verify the appropriate sample sizes for the years to be studied.

Publications of data for Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans

Data from MEPS are provided for the major race/ethnicity groups. Subpopulation data are not available. Public use data files, containing information for individual respondents, are issued regularly; Hispanic subpopulations (except for the category "Central or South American") are identified, but not API subpopulations.

Revised race/ethnic definitions

Since, as noted, the MEPS sample is drawn from the NHIS, the revised OMB standards for collecting race/ethnicity will be introduced concurrent with their adoption by NHIS. The detail to be available on the tape file is yet to be determined.

Agency website address: