The Capacity of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to Inform the Affordable Care Act

By Cohen, Steven B.; Cohen, Joel W. | Inquiry, May 2013 | Go to article overview

The Capacity of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to Inform the Affordable Care Act


Cohen, Steven B., Cohen, Joel W., Inquiry


Abstract

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted with major provisions to expand health insurance coverage, control health care costs, and improve the health care delivery system. Essential data resources will be required for effective program planning, administration, and management, in addition to facilitating evaluations of program performance. The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) is one of the core data resources that has been used to inform several provisions of the ACA. This paper provides a summary of the capacity of the MEPS to inform program planning, implementation, and evaluations of program performance for several components of the ACA.

Keywords

MEPS, Affordable Care Act, health insurance

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In spring 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (PL. 111-148) was enacted with major provisions to expand health insurance coverage, to control health care costs, and to improve the health care delivery system. While the major coverage expansions envisioned by the legislation are not scheduled to be implemented until 2014, several provisions of the law already have been adopted, and planning efforts have been initiated for the core components of the act (Committees on Ways & Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education & Labor 2010; 111th Congress of the United States of America 2011). To effectively plan, implement, and manage the vast array of programs set in motion by this act-and to evaluate their impact--there is critical need for content-specific data that are both timely and accessible. While new data development efforts are essential to achieve these goals, several existing data platforms have helped inform the underlying framework of the legislation and will continue to be invaluable to its implementation.

The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), is one of the core data resources used to inform several provisions of the ACA. In this paper, we discuss the current capacity of the MEPS to inform program planning, implementation, and evaluation of several components of the ACA. In addition, we summarize recent enhancements to the survey that advance related programmatic needs identified by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Measurement of Trends in Health Care Cost, Coverage, Access, and Use: The MEPS Data Infrastructure

Health care expenditures represent more than one-sixth of the U.S. gross domestic product, exhibit a rate of growth that exceeds other sectors of the economy, and constitute one of the largest components of the federal budget and states' budgets. Although the rate of growth in health care costs has slowed in the past few years, costs continue to rise, in particular for hospital care and prescription medications. As a result, the question of how to design a system that encourages the efficient provision of high quality care remains an issue of continuing concern to both private and public payers. In a similar vein, an evaluation of the current health care system requires an understanding of the patterns and trends in the use of health care services and their associated costs and sources of payment. To effectively address these issues, researchers and policymakers need accurate, nationally representative data to better permit an understanding of how individual characteristics, behavioral factors, financial incentives, and institutional arrangements affect health care utilization and expenditures in a rapidly changing health care market.

The growing demand for accurate and reliable information on the population's health care utilization, expenditures, insurance coverage, sources of payment, and access to care served as the catalyst to initiate the family of national medical expenditure surveys sponsored by the AHRQ and its predecessor agencies. AHRQ's MEPS collects detailed information regarding the use of and payment for health care services from a nationally representative sample of Americans. …

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