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Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS): Experiences with Cancer Survivorship Supplement

What is the MEPS?

The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) is a nationally representative survey of the civilian noninstitutionalized population of all ages in the US. Conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the MEPS collects comprehensive data on health care utilization and expenditures. Data are collected over five rounds of in-person interviews that cover a consecutive two-year period. Each MEPS panel is a subsample of the prior year National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) respondents.

What is the MEPS Experiences with Cancer Survivorship Supplement?

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is collaborating with the American Cancer Society (ACS)External Web Site Policy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), LIVESTRONGExternal Web Site Policy, and the AHRQ to provide supplemental funding to the MEPS to improve the quality of data for estimating the cancer survivorship burden in the United States. Using responses to the NHIS question about cancer diagnoses, households with cancer survivors were oversampled for selection in the MEPS.

The increased sample of cancer survivors will improve national estimates of the burden of cancer, particularly medical care expenditures for patients of all ages. Additionally, this collaborative group developed a targeted questionnaire, Experiences with Cancer, to further understand the burden of cancer, its treatment and impact on access to health care, the ability to work and participate in usual activities, health insurance, and quality of care.

What types of studies could be done with the Cancer Survivorship Supplement to the MEPS?

Availability of these data will allow scientists to use the MEPS data for many types of studies of the burden of cancer in the United States. Studies can be either cross-sectional or longitudinal across the MEPS interviews. Participants in the MEPS can also be linked back to their data in the NHIS.

Specific cancer survivorship research questions that can be addressed with the MEPS data and data from the supplemental questionnaire include:

  • financial burden,
  • access to medical care,
  • employment and employment patterns,
  • health care utilization and expenditures, and
  • use of prescription drugs by cancer survivors.

The data from the Experiences with Cancer survey are available to the public. Please see the MEPS Web site for more information.

Why is this research a priority for NCI?

A major component of the NCI's mission is measuring and understanding the burden of cancer and its care in the United States. To help fulfill this mission, the Health Services and Economics Branch (HSEB) supports the development and dissemination of data resources, survey and measurement techniques, and analytical methods with the goal of improving the quality of research in this field and ultimately reducing the burden of cancer to patients, their families, and society.

The linked SEER-Medicare database is a major data source for studies of cancer care and descriptive and treatment-specific cost estimates. These data come from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program of cancer registries that collect clinical, demographic, and cause of death information for persons with cancer and the Medicare claims for covered health care services from the time of a person's Medicare eligibility until death.

However, estimates from SEER-Medicare are based on the elderly population. Additionally, SEER-Medicare does not include information about health care coverage from payors other than Medicare, including private payors, Medicaid, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and patient out-of-pocket payments. National information about costs of care in younger cancer survivors, and comprehensive information about all types of health insurance in cancer survivors of all ages, is lacking. The ability to utilize the MEPS data to better understand the burden of illness in cancer survivors will help to address these research gaps and complement existing research resources.

Last Modified: 11 Apr 2014