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New MEPS products now available

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has released 1996 data on expenditures for prescription medications. The data are from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) household component. Each prescription record includes the medication's National Drug Code, generic or brand name, strength, and quantity; total expenditures and payments by source for the drug; and information on the household-reported medical conditions for which it was prescribed.

This data release is another installment in a series of MEPS public use files and is the first release of data on expenditures for medical care incurred in 1996 by the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population. This file can be merged with previously released files to determine information on demographic characteristics, condition details, or health insurance. Users also will be able to merge this file with future public use files on total health expenditures and other types of medical care information.

MEPS is an ongoing, national survey of the health care experience of the U.S. population. It is the third in a series of nationally representative surveys of medical care use and expenditures sponsored by AHRQ. MEPS comprises four component surveys (the household component, the medical provider component, the insurance component, and the nursing home component). The insurance component collects employment-related health insurance information, such as premiums and types of plans offered. Respondent characteristics—such as size of business, employee characteristics, and type of industry—also are collected. The insurance component sample comprises a household sample component (linked to the MEPS household survey) and a list sample. The list sample is an independently selected random sample of governments and private-sector establishments. MEPS public use files can be accessed through the MEPS Web site.

In addition to the public use file described above, several new MEPS reports and an article reprint are now available from the AHRQ Clearinghouse, as follows.

The Uninsured in America—1997. MEPS Highlights No. 10(AHRQ Publication No. 99-0031).

This Highlights presents estimates of the uninsured population of the United States in 1997. It is based on the more detailed publication, Health Insurance Status of the Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population, 1997 (AHRQ Publication No. 99-0030). Major findings include the following. In the first half of 1997, 16.8 percent of all Americans were uninsured. Among Americans under 65, more than a third of Hispanics (35 percent) and 23 percent of blacks were uninsured during the first half of 1997, compared with only 15 percent of whites. Even though Hispanics represented only 12 percent of the nonelderly U.S. population, they accounted for 22 percent of the entire uninsured population. Young adults ages 19-24 were more at risk of being uninsured than any other age group. More than a third (35 percent) of young adults were uninsured. During the first half of 1997, among people under age 65, those who were separated from their spouse were more likely to be uninsured (34 percent) than people of any other marital status.

Construction of Weights for the 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Insurance Component List Sample. MEPS Methodology Report No. 7, by J.P. Sommers (AHRQ Publication No. 00-0005).

The purpose of the list sample is to make National and State estimates of employer insurance characteristics, the costs associated with employer insurance, and the numbers of employees enrolled. This report describes the overall response rates for the list sample and the process used to correct the weights for survey response. The weights are corrected in order to adequately represent all nonrespondents and all important subgroups, especially subgroups that may have had different response rates from the average for the survey.

Nonresponse adjustment strategy in the household component of the 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (AHCPR Publication No. 00-R006), by S.B. Cohen and S.R. Machlin. Journal of Economic and Social Measurement 25, pp. 15-33, 1999.

In large national sample surveys, adjustments for nonresponders are typically incorporated in the survey weights that are used to generate population estimates. These adjustments are designed to reduce the bias in survey estimates that may arise from differential response rates among the sample subgroups. This paper describes the nonresponse adjustment strategy in the household component of MEPS. The authors identified and contrasted the characteristics of the households that did not respond to the first round of data collection for the 1996 MEPS with those who did participate in the survey. The results informed the adjustments implemented to correct for survey nonresponse.

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