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Limited Data Set (LDS) Files

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LDS General Information :: LDS Policies :: LDS New Request :: LDS Add Files to Existing DUA


LDS: General Information

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) makes Limited Data Set (LDS) files available to researchers as allowed by federal laws and regulations as well as CMS policy. LDS files contain beneficiary-level health information and are considered identifiable files, but they do not contain specific direct identifiers as defined in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule. All disclosures of LDS files require a signed LDS Data Use Agreement (DUA) between the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Requestor. For additional information on available LDS files, please visit the CMS LDS website at https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Files-for-Order/LimitedDataSets/index.html

LDS requestors are required to provide a research purpose as part of their request. The research purpose must relate to projects that could improve the U.S. healthcare delivery system. This includes projects related to improving the quality of life for CMS beneficiaries or improving the administration of CMS programs, including payment related projects and the creation of analytical reports. In addition, these research projects must contribute to generalizable knowledge. Please note that, since CMS publishes comments in the Federal Register, if you are requesting MedPAR files solely for the purpose of commenting on rulemaking, that meets the generalizable knowledge requirement. 

Please follow the processes below to request a new LDS DUA or add LDS files to an existing LDS DUA.

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LDS: Policies

You must adhere to all LDS policies in the LDS DUA Form 0235L at all times. These policies include, but are not limited to:

  1. Cell Suppression: The CMS’ cell suppression policy stipulates that no beneficiary(ies)-related data cell (eg. admittances, discharges, patients) with a size of 1-10 may be published or otherwise displayed. Additional guidance about the CMS cell suppression policy can be found at the following link: https://www.resdac.org/resconnect/articles/26

  2. Adding Custodians or Collaborators: It is important to note that additional Custodians or Collaborating organizations cannot be added to a DUA for the sole purpose of allowing them to view data that does not comply with the CMS cell suppression policy, including data on their own patients.  All organizations on the DUA must be involved with the actual research study as outlined in the Attachment A Study Protocol.

  3. Research and Generalizable Knowledge: CMS is permitted to disclose LDS files for research purposes. Research is defined in HIPAA as “a systematic investigation, including research development, testing, and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.” (See 45 CFR 164.501) CMS interprets generalizable knowledge to mean that results of the research are made publicly available. Therefore, information must be included in  Attachment A Study Protocol that describes how the results of the research will be made publicly available.

    Please note if you are requesting files for the sole purpose of commenting on CMS proposed or final rules, then your comments will fulfill the generalizable knowledge requirement.

  4. Data Storage: You must store your LDS data in the location you listed on your Attachment A Study Protocol.  CMS data cannot be moved unless you notify and receive approval from CMS. Please e-mail DataUseAgreement@cms.hhs.gov for additional information if you need to move LDS data.

  5. Data Copies: You may not make duplicate copies of CMS data.

  6. Data Shipping: CMS can only ship LDS data to a Requester or Custodian on the DUA, and only to an address that is already on the DUA. If you need to add or update a Requester, Custodian, or shipping address, please follow the Contact Change process before submitting your order.

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LDS: New Request

1.    Complete a LDS Request Packet that consists of the following:

  • LDS request letter, with the following information:
    • Project title
    • Brief overview of the use of the data
    • A contact person’s name, organization, and e-mail address
  • LDS Worksheet
    • Use the LDS Worksheet to specify the files you are requesting.  The Worksheet will automatically calculate the cost for your request.
    • If reusing data files from another DUA for your organization, do not select those files on the LDS worksheet. However, please note there is a $600 administrative fee to reuse data unless you are only re-using Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) data.  The re-use fee for MCBS is $200. This fee is waived if new data files are being requested.
    • Please note: The runoff date for data in the quarterly files is different from the annual files. See https://www.resdac.org/resconnect/articles/1 for more information.
  • LDS DUA Form 0235L
    • Section 4 is where to list your requested file names and data years, and whether you are requesting a 5% sample or 100% of the file. If there are not enough rows to list all the files you need, please create and attach a continuation document listing the additional file names and data years and annotate this in one of the rows in Section 4 of DUA Form 0235L.
    • If reusing data files from another DUA for your organization, please also list these files in Section 4 of DUA Form 0235L.
    • A current list of available LDS files can be found here
  • LDS DUA Attachment A – Research Protocol
  • LDS DUA Attachment B only if you are requesting:
    • Standard Analytical Files (SAF) for 2012 or later, and/or
    • The NPI/UPIN Crosswalk.

2.    Draft an email with the subject “New DUA-LDS < Requestor’s Organization Name>” and attach your LDS Request Packet (including signed DUA forms). If reusing data files from another DUA for your organization, include the files and years being requested and the number of the DUA from which you are reusing in the body of the email. It is not permissible to reuse data from another organization’s DUA.

3.    Send the email to the following contact:

  • If a CMS Sponsored Program/Awardee, Federal Grantee: Your CMS Contact or Federal Project Officer for them to submit on your behalf
  • All other researchers: DataUseAgreement@cms.hhs.gov.

4.    If your request is approved, the DUA team will notify you about how to submit your payment via www.pay.gov and how to forward that information to our payment coordinator. 

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LDS: Add Files to an Existing DUA

1.     Complete an LDS Update Packet that consists of the following:

2.    Draft an email with the DUA number as the subject line and attach your LDS Update Packet. If reusing data from another DUA for your organization, please include the files and years being requested and the number of the DUA from which you are reusing in the body of the email.

3.    Send the email to following contact:

  • If a CMS Sponsored Program/Awardee, Federal Grantee, please submit to your CMS Contact or Federal Project Officer for them to submit on your behalf

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