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November 2004, Vol. 127, No.11
Federal statistics on healthcare benefits and cost trends: an overview
John E. Buckley and Robert W. Van Giezen
There are various Federal statistical surveys that attempt to shed light on a major national topic—healthcare availability and costs. Federal agencies—such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of the Census, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the National Center for Health Statistics, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services—collect, analyze, and publish data that address different aspects of the healthcare picture. Some statistical programs such as those conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics have as their primary mission the dissemination of statistics. Other agencies, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, publish data in conjunction with their primary mission to provide services and enforce regulations. This article summarizes major Federal healthcare statistical surveys and identifies selected benefit provisions, including incidence of coverage and employer and employee costs. Two types of surveys are examined separately—surveys of establishments (employers) and household surveys. In addition, Federal accounting structures that provide a measurement of aggregate medical costs are reviewed.
The two major establishment-type surveys are the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Compensation Survey (NCS) and the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Insurance Component (MEPS-IC) conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Both establishment surveys are conducted annually. Data for the NCS are collected by personal visit initially and updated by mail and telephone; the MEPS’s data are collected primarily by mail. Both survey types obtain some detailed provisions from benefit plan documents rather than directly from respondents. Tables 1 through 4 present examples of selected published data from the NCS1 and the MEPS-IC.2
This excerpt is from an article published in the November 2004 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 More information on the National Compensation Survey is available on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ (visited Sept. 24, 2004).
2 More information on the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (Insurance Component) is available on the Internet at http://www.meps.ahcpr.gov/MEPSDATA/ic/2001/technote2001.pdf (visited Sept. 24, 2004).
Related BLS programs
Consumer Price Indexes
National Compensation Survey - Compensation Cost Trends
Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
National Compensation Survey - Benefits
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