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New MEPS chartbook of nursing home data is now available from AHCPR

The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research has published a new chartbook presenting characteristics of nursing home facilities, special care units, and their residents. The chartbook was released by AHCPR at the June 1999 annual meeting of the Association for Health Services Research in Chicago. Nursing Home Trends, 1987 and 1996, features findings from AHCPR's 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) and 1987 National Medical Expenditure Survey Institutional Population Component.

Using a question-and-answer style—along with charts and graphs—the chartbook provides information about nursing homes and their residents in 1996 compared with information about the nursing home market in 1987. Significant findings include:

  • In 1996, nursing homes served an older population than they did in 1987. From 1987 to 1996, the proportion of nursing home residents who were 85 and over rose from 49 percent to 56 percent for women and from 29 percent to 33 percent for men.
  • Both the number of nursing homes and the number of nursing home beds increased almost 20 percent from 1987 to 1996, from 14,050 homes with 1.48 million beds in 1987 to 16,840 homes and 1.76 million beds in 1996.
  • Residents were more functionally disabled in 1996 than in 1987. The number of nursing home residents who needed help with three or more activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, eating, using the toilet, etc.) increased from 72 percent in 1987 to 83 percent in 1996.
  • Male residents were more likely to be married when entering a nursing home in 1996 than in 1987, from 24.8 percent in 1987 to 34.3 percent in 1996. There was very little change in the marital status of female residents during that time. In both years, almost three-fourths of women—but only one-third of men—were widowed at the time of the survey.
  • In 1996 the most common type of special care unit was for treatment of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. Most Alzheimer's units are relatively new; only 10 percent have been operating for more than 10 years. There are no 1987 data available on special care units.
  • Between 1987 and 1996, there was a trend away from traditional nursing homes toward nursing homes that included assisted or independent living beds in addition to traditional nursing home beds. The proportion of nonnursing beds rose from 6.9 percent in 1987 to 11.3 percent in 1996.

Print copies of Nursing Home Trends, 1987 and 1996, (AHCPR Publication No. 99-0032) are available from the AHCPR Clearinghouse. This is the third chartbook of MEPS data to be released by AHCPR. Two other chartbooks have been published—Children's Health, 1996 (AHCPR Publication No. 98-0008) was released in March 1998 and Racial and Ethnic Differences in Health, 1996 (AHCPR Publication No. 99-0001) was released in February 1999.

Editor's Note: AHCPR also released tables of data from the insurance component of MEPS, which provide national information on health insurance costs and characteristics in 1996 and State-by-State breakdowns for the 40 most populous States. The tables include estimates of health insurance premiums, contributions, enrollments, offerings, take-up rates, and self-insured rates. The tables are based on data collected from a nationally representative sample of private-sector employers. At this time, the tables are available only through the AHCPR MEPS Web site. (Select to access the tables.) Later this summer, AHCPR will release the tables on CD-ROM. To preorder the CD-ROM (AHCPR Publication No. 99-DP07), send an E-mail to or call the AHCPR Publications Clearinghouse at 1-800-358-9295.

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