The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey - Insurance Component (MEPS-IC), also called the Health Insurance Cost Study, is conducted by the United States Census Bureau for the Department of Health and Human Services. It provides national and state level estimates on employer-sponsored health insurance coverage. The survey is conducted under the authority of Title 13, Section 8(b) of the United States Code and Section 913 of the Public Health Service Act (Title 42, U.S.C., Section 299b-2).
The MEPS-IC collects data from a sample of private- and public-sector employers. The sample consists of approximately 40,000 private industry establishments and 3,000 state and local governments.
The MEPS-IC fields questionnaires to private and public sector employers to collect data on the number and types of private health insurance plans offered, benefits associated with these plans, premiums, contributions by employers and employees, eligibility requirements, and employer characteristics.
This survey has been conducted annually since 1996 with a new sample selected every year.
The MEPS-IC uses multiple data collection methods. Establishments and government units are initially screened by telephone to confirm their mailing addresses and to establish a point-of-contact with a knowledgable respondent. If an establishment does not offer health insurance to any of its employees, the questions about establishment and firm characteristics are asked at that time, and the survey is completed by telephone.
Establishments that offer health insurance and those that do not respond to the telephone screening are mailed survey questionnaires. The mailing consists of an establishment-level questionnaire and separate questionnaires for each health plan offered up to four plans. A second mailing is sent if the first mailing is not returned within a three-week period. If the establishment does not return either mailing, it is called and interviewed over the telephone. Large companies and governments are occasionally interviewed in person due to the large amount of data being requested of them.
The MEPS-IC provides national- and state-level estimates by industry and firm size. Data for the private- and public-sectors are tabulated separately. Private-sector tables are posted to the MEPS website in July and the public-sector tables five months later in December. For the first time ever the MEPS-IC is collecting data in the current year. For example, data used to create the 2008 MEPS-IC tables are being collected in 2008, and the tables will be posted in July and December of 2009. All released data can be found at www.meps.ahrq.gov under the section entitled "Summary Data Tables."
Accurate and timely health insurance data are critical given the rapidly-rising cost of health care. Data are needed to track industry trends and examine how these trends have changed health insurance coverage over time. These data are national benchmarking estimates of how Americans use and pay for their health care services. Policy makers at the national and state levels use the data to assess the status of employer-sponsored health insurance throughout the United States and to monitor the impact of the laws governing health insurance.
Annual national estimates of aggregate spending on employer-sponsored health insurance are used by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) to calculate employer contributions to group health insurance, which accounts for about one-half of "other labor income" in the calculation of U.S. Gross Domestic Product. BEA also uses these data to monitor trends at the national and state level and to support estimates for the National Health Accounts.
Researchers and policy analysts, both public and private, use these data to analyze a number of issues, such as the factors associated with a firm's decision to self-insure or offer more insurance, and to model the tax implications of proposed legislation.
The MEPS-IC is the only health insurance survey that provides estimates at the state level.