Skip to Main Content

Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS)

The Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) is a continuous, multipurpose survey of a nationally representative sample of the Medicare population, conducted by the Office of Enterprise Data and Analytics (OEDA) of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) through a contract with NORC at the University of Chicago. The central goals of the MCBS is to determine expenditures and sources of payment for all services used by Medicare beneficiaries, including co-payments, deductibles, and non-covered services; to ascertain all types of health insurance coverage and relate coverage to sources of payment; and to trace outcomes over time, such as changes in health status and spending down to Medicaid eligibility and the impacts of Medicare program changes on satisfaction with care and usual source of care.

The Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) celebrates over 25 years of continuous data collection! The MCBS team is happy to announce that data for the 2016 MCBS Cost Supplement will be available December, 2018. The MCBS files have improved user documentation, user friendly file structures, and an updated Chart Book. The MCBS files are released differently than in past years. The following files can be obtained directly from CMS.

Current Availability:  
-MCBS Survey File – 2015-2016 Available
-MCBS Cost Supplement File – 2015 Available, 2016 Available December 2018

MCBS Survey File

The MCBS Survey File contains survey collected data augmented with Administrative data to allow for analysis regarding the beneficiaries’ health status, access to health care, satisfaction with health care and usual source of care. The following information is contained in the MCBS Survey File: Beneficiary Demographics, Household Characteristics, Access to Care, Satisfaction with Care, Usual Source of Care, Health Insurance Timeline (shows types of insurances, the coverage eligibility, and what is covered), Health Status and Functioning and other topical survey sections like Medical Conditions, Health Behaviors, Preventive Services, Interview Characteristics, Beneficiary Knowledge of the Medicare Program, Residence Timeline, Facility Characteristics, and Beneficiary Income and Assets. This file also includes summarized administrative FFS utilization data and research claims which contain limited FFS claims content for those beneficiaries enrolled in FFS Medicare and Medicare Part D.  This file is released 12-15 months after the end of data collection.

MCBS Cost Supplement File

The MCBS Cost Supplement File provides cost and utilization data that can be linked to the MCBS Survey File to conduct analysis on healthcare cost and utilization for the beneficiaries in the survey. This is not a stand-alone file. Users of the Cost Supplement File will now require the Survey File for information on beneficiaries’ demographic characteristics and health insurance information, as these fields are no longer included in the Cost Supplement File. The MCBS Cost Supplement file links Medicare claims to survey-reported events and provides complete expenditure and source of payment data on all health care services, including those not covered by Medicare. The MCBS Cost Supplement file provides a comprehensive picture of health services received, amounts paid, and all sources of payment. The file can support a broader range of research and policy analyses on the Medicare population than would be possible using either survey data or administrative claims data alone. Survey-reported data include information on the use and cost of all types of medical services including those not covered by Medicare, as well as information on supplementary health insurance costs. The Cost Supplement file includes use and cost information on dental care, inpatient hospitalizations, outpatient hospital care, physician services, durable medical equipment, skilled nursing home and other facility services, prescription medications, and other medical services.  This file is released 15-18 months after final administrative and claims data are available.

In order to accommodate changes in sampling and data collection methodologies to allow for a more timely release of data starting with the 2015 MCBS, 2014 MCBS data are not being released. For more information, please read our recent CMS Blog post:  (http://blog.cms.gov/2016/09/29/the-medicare-current-beneficiary-survey-celebrating-our-25th-anniversary-and-a-bright-future-ahead).

All research requests for MCBS data for the limited access data releases must be requested through the Limited Data Set File Process. 

Please follow the instructions on the DUA - Limited Data Sets page.


For data files 1991-2013 there are two data files from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) that were released in annual Access to Care and Cost and Use files, which can be obtained directly from CMS.

MCBS Access to Care:  $600 per year, 1991-2013 available

The Access to Care file contains information on beneficiaries' access to health care, satisfaction with care, and usual source of care. The Access to Care file also contains results from a supplement gauging beneficiaries' sources of information about Medicare and from a supplement surveying Medicare HMO members. To facilitate analysis, the information collected in the survey is augmented with data on the use and program cost of Medicare services from Medicare claims data under fee-for-service.

MCBS Cost and Use Files:  $600 per year, 1992-2013 available

The MCBS Cost and Use files link Medicare claims to survey-reported events and provides complete expenditure and source of payment data on all health care services, including those not covered by Medicare. Expenditure data were developed through a reconciliation process that combines information from survey respondents and Medicare administrative files. The process produces a comprehensive picture of health services received, amounts paid, and sources of payment. The file can support a broader range of research and policy analyses on the Medicare population than would be possible using either survey data or administrative claims data alone. Survey-reported data include information on the use and cost of all types of medical services, as well as information on supplementary health insurance, living arrangements, income, health status, and physical functioning. Medicare claims data includes use and cost information on inpatient hospitalizations, outpatient hospital care, physician services, home health care, durable medical equipment, skilled nursing home services, hospice care, and other medical services.

File Availability and Additional Requirements in the Related Links section below.

.