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Medicare Claims Synthetic Public Use Files (SynPUFs)

Medicare Claims Synthetic Public Use Files (SynPUFs) were created to allow interested parties to gain familiarity using Medicare claims data while protecting beneficiary privacy.  The data structure of the Medicare SynPUFs is very similar to the CMS Limited Data Sets, but with a smaller number of variables.  They provide data analysts and software developers the opportunity to develop programs and products utilizing the identical formats and variable names as those which appear in the actual CMS data files.  The files have been designed so that programs and procedures created on the SynPUFs will function on CMS Limited Data Sets. The SynPUFs also provide a robust set of metadata on the CMS claims data that have not been available in the public domain.  After developmental work has been completed potential users should be much better informed about which CMS data products they would need to acquire to fulfill their analytic needs.

These files may be used to:

  1. allow data entrepreneurs to develop and create software and applications that may eventually be applied to actual CMS claims data;
  2. train researchers on the use and complexity of conducting analyses with CMS claims data prior to initiating the process to obtain access to actual CMS data; and,
  3. support safe data mining innovations that may reveal unanticipated knowledge gains while preserving beneficiary privacy.

Although these files have very limited inferential research value to draw conclusions about Medicare beneficiaries due to the synthetic processes used to create the files, they increase access to realistic Medicare claims data files in a timely and less expensive manner to spur the innovation necessary to achieve the goals of better care for beneficiaries and improve the health of the population.

Files will be made available as a free downloads in order to provide access to Medicare data without the time and cost associated with obtaining data files which require more restricted access.

The first Synthetic PUF released is the 2008-2010 Data Entrepreneurs’ SynPUF.

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Note: Please read the CMS Data Disclaimer – User Agreement – Public Use Data, which contains important information regarding the use of the data. See the link in the "Downloads" section below.