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National Healthcare Disparities Report, 2005

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Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS)


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Office of Strategic Planning.

Mode of Administration

MCBS is a computer-assisted personal survey of Medicare beneficiaries residing in the United States and Puerto Rico. The data in this report are from repeat interviews of Medicare beneficiaries who resided in community settings. Community residents receive a baseline questionnaire and community core questionnaires. The baseline questionnaire collects information on health insurance, household composition, health status, access to and satisfaction with medical care, and demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. The core questionnaires collect information on health insurance, medical care use, charges and payments for medical care, and specific topics such as income and assets. These data are supplemented with administrative data on Medicare and Medicaid eligibility, enrollment in Medicare managed care, and claims for Medicare-covered services.

Survey Sample Design

The MCBS sample consists of aged and disabled beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) or Part B (medical insurance) or both. Beneficiaries are selected for the survey by using a stratified, multistage area probability design. A key feature of the survey is that sample persons are followed over time as part of a four-year rotating panel design. Each person is interviewed three times per year over four years, regardless of whether he or she resides in the community or a long-term care facility.

The data are used to produce calendar year public use files on access to care and cost and use. All four panels are included in the access to care file. Only three panels are included in the cost and use file since the panel that is being retired during a calendar year is not asked about medical utilization for that year.

Primary Survey Content

Medical expenditure data as well as detailed data on health conditions, health status, use of medical care services, charges and payments, access to care, satisfaction with care, health insurance coverage, income, and employment.

Population Targeted

The MCBS is a nationally representative survey of all Medicare beneficiaries, regardless of age or place of residence.

Demographic Data

Age, race, ethnicity, region, occupation, employment status, and household composition.

Years Collected

1991 to present.


Annual releases of access to care and cost and use files. The access to care file for a calendar year is released about one year after the end of data collection. The cost and use file for a calendar year is released about two years after the end of data collection.

Geographic Estimates

National. The data also can be shown for the four Census regions (Northeast, Midwest, South, and West).


The MCBS contains four overlapping panels of Medicare beneficiaries. Each year one panel is dropped from the survey and a new one is added. This design produces three calendar years of medical utilization data for each sample person. The data are collected over a four-year period in which sample persons are interviewed 12 times. The first interview collects baseline information on the beneficiary. The next 11 interviews are used to collect three complete years of utilization data.

Contact Information

Data system homepage:


Adler GS. Summer 1994, A Profile of the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey. Health Care Financing Review, 15(4): 153-163.



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