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Sept 15 -- The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is announcing an opportunity for the public to comment on CMS' intention to conduct the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) during 2021-23. Comments are due by November 16, 2020.
 
The MCBS is the most comprehensive and complete survey available on the Medicare population and is essential in capturing data not otherwise collected through our operations. The MCBS is a nationally-representative, longitudinal survey of Medicare beneficiaries that we sponsor and is directed by the Office of Enterprise Data and Analytics (OEDA). The survey is usually conducted in-person but can also be conducted by phone. It captures beneficiary information whether aged or disabled, living in the community or facility, or serviced by managed care or fee-for-service. Data produced as part of the MCBS are enhanced with our administrative data (e.g., fee-for-service claims, prescription drug event data, enrollment, etc.) to provide users with more accurate and complete estimates of total health care costs and utilization. The MCBS has been continuously fielded for more than 28 years, encompassing over 1 million interviews and more than 100,000 survey participants. Respondents participate in up to 11 interviews over a four-year period. This gives a comprehensive picture of health care costs and utilization over a period of time.
 
The MCBS continues to provide unique insight into the Medicare program and helps CMS and our external stakeholders better understand and evaluate the impact of existing programs and significant new policy initiatives. In the past, MCBS data have been used to assess potential changes to the Medicare program. For example, the MCBS was instrumental in supporting the development and implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit by providing a means to evaluate prescription drug costs and out-of-pocket burden for these drugs to Medicare beneficiaries.  
 
Beginning in 2021, this proposed revision to the clearance will add a few new measures to existing questionnaire sections and will add a new COVID-19 Questionnaire section previously approved by OMB on August 7, 2020. This request revises the main MCBS clearance (0938-0568) to add the COVID-19 questions to the MCBS beginning in Winter 2021. The COVID-19 questions are the same as those approved by OMB on August 7, 2020 for administration in Fall 2020 Round 88. This request also includes two new questions to the Housing Characteristics Questionnaire (HAQ) and one new question to the Health Status and Functioning Questionnaire (HFQ).
 
The current plan is to continue administering the MCBS by phone until at least April 30, 2021 when the Winter 2021 Round 89 ends. Phone administration might continue into Summer 2021 Round 90 and perhaps even into Fall 2021 Round 91, depending upon the course of the pandemic. Because MCBS respondents, by definition, are most at risk for underlying conditions that may lead to more severe COVID-19 complications, it may be that even after a vaccine is available, survey administration remains by phone for a period of time. Nearly all sections of the MCBS questionnaire can continue to be administered by phone and data dissemination plans will be unaffected. However, physical measures (including measured height, weight, sit/stand, balance, gait speed, and grip strength) cannot be implemented over the phone and will be on hold until in-person interviewing resumes.
 
MCBS website: https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Research/MCBS  
Draft MCBS supporting statement -- with detailed description of proposed revisions, uses, methodology, timing https://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Legislation/PaperworkReductionActof1995/PRA-Listing-Items/CMS-P-0015A
FR notice: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/09/15/2020-20273/agency-information-collection-activities-proposed-collection-comment-request
 
Point of contact: William S. Long, Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, Office of Enterprise Data and Analytics (OEDA)/CMS   (410) 786-7927  william.long@cms.hhs.gov

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