HHS Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated to the Public. III. Types of Information Disseminated


Generally speaking, information released by CMS falls into one of two broad categories: Medicare consumer information, and program information and evaluation. Typically, CMS does not provide detailed consumer information about Medicaid or SCHIP because these functions are carried out by individual State governments.

  1. Medicare consumer information

    This information is designed to help people enrolled in Medicare make informed decisions about the types of insurance and service providers they use. For example,

    • Medicare & You is an annual handbook mailed to Medicare enrollees. The book provides basic benefit information, and also provides information about managed care plans and other types of health insurance available to enrollees.
    • Nursing Home Compare is a web site containing information about long-term care facilities. In combination with other factors, this information can be used by people who are contemplating nursing home care for themselves or others, to decide which facility is best for them.
  2. Program information and evaluation

    This type of information is designed to help improve the performance of CMS programs. Examples include:

    • Program information provides summary statistics describing use of CMS program services, the number of people using those services, expenditure for those services, etc. For example, CMS publishes an annual Medicare and Medicaid Statistical Supplement to the Health Care Financing Review.
    • Statistical data sets are claims-level, person-level, or provider-level data used for program evaluation, health services research, or policy development. For example, CMS prepares Standard Analytic Files (SAFs) extracting Medicare hospital inpatient claims that can be used by outside researchers who abide by a data use agreement. The agency also releases information from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS), a survey of a random sample of Medicare enrollees that collects social, demographic, and economic information about those enrollees.
    • Research and evaluation reports focus on issues germane to CMS programs and policy. Typically, each innovation in CMS programs must be evaluated; often, such innovations are preceded by research performed by CMS staff or by outside researchers under contract to the agency. Many of these evaluations are released through Reports to the Congress.
    • Technical reports summarize specific aspects of CMS and its program activities. For example, each year CMS actuaries produce the data underlying the report of Medicare's trustees on the financial health of the program.
    • Payment updates establish the amount Medicare will pay for particular services or for capitated care of beneficiaries. For example, each year the agency publishes a fee schedule update that determines payments for physician services.