New Initiative Digs Gold Mine of Medicare Data

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a new data and information initiative it says will be a key tool in the agency’s evolution from a fee-for-service based payer to a value-based purchaser of care. A new Office of Information Products and Data Analytics (OIPDA) will oversee CMS’ portfolio of data and information and make it more accessible to health care professionals and patients. Under OIPDA, the development, management, use, and dissemination of data and information resources will become one of CMS’ core functions. CMS says the agency and its partners will be better able to define and reward high quality, low cost care.

OIPDA will assume responsibility for many current CMS data functions, including:

  • Management of the Chronic Condition Warehouse (CCW), which is designed to support multiple analytic functions and includes patient-centric data files linked by a unique beneficiary identifier across the continuum of care from 1999 to present day. The CCW also contains Medicaid data, assessment data, and provider enrollment data.
  • Administration and production of the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS), which is the largest continuous survey of Medicare beneficiaries in the country. The MCBS provides stable estimates and information on the Medicare population, such as expenditures and sources of payment for services used by beneficiaries, changes in health status, satisfaction with care, and usual source of care.
  • Management of the Medicaid Analytic Extract (MAX), which is designed to summarize Medicaid data from the Medicaid Statistical Information System (MSIS).
  • Oversight of the Research Data Assistance Center (ResDAC), which provides training and technical assistance for external users requesting CMS data.
  • Oversight of the Medicare Data Sharing for Performance Measurement Program (Affordable Care Act section 10332), which provides extracts of all Medicare claims data to qualified entities who then combine the Medicare data with claims data from other payers to create comprehensive, actionable quality assessments for health care providers.
  • Publication of aggregated Medicare demographic, spending, utilization, and quality information at the Hospital Referral Region (HRR) level.
  • Oversight of the Medicare “Blue Button” initiative, which allows beneficiaries to easily download their Medicare claims history.

OIPDA will also coordinate the agency’s data policies and requirements. CMS says other departments and initiatives will continue to collect, store, and analyze data for their specific business needs, with OIPDA being responsible to ensure that CMS maximizes its data resources, transforming the agency into a data driven organization.

New OIPDA Data and Information Products

As part of the initiative, CMS announced the release of several new data and information products:


  • Medicare Geographic Variation Trend Data: The agency calls this a unique data set that “leverages almost 5 billion Medicare claims over a four-year period into an easy-to-use data resource at the state and HRR levels.” The data set includes numerous variables, such as demographics, spending, utilization and quality of care, across four years (2007-2010). This data set permits a variety of users with varying levels of experience with Medicare data to quickly understand and adapt the data to specific projects, and provides the ability to assess and compare their state’s or HRR’s Medicare performance against that of other areas or the national average. The data is on the Institute of Medicine website and will be available in the Health Indicators Warehouse by mid-summer 2012.
  • Medicare Enrollment Dashboard: This is an online dashboard that provides comprehensive statistics on Medicare enrollment (Parts A, B, and D and Medicare Advantage), including detailed information on enrollment patterns at both the national and state level for recent years, as well as historical trend data on overall Medicare enrollment beginning in 1966. This replaces a process where interested parties had to obtain information about Medicare Parts A, B, D, and Medicare Advantage enrollment from multiple locations on the CMS website.
  • Medicare & Medicaid Research Review (MMRR): CMS recently launched a peer-reviewed online journal to support dissemination of research to a wide audience of Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program stakeholders. MMRR is accepting manuscripts reporting on issues involving health care coverage, quality, and access to care for beneficiaries and payment for health services. MMRR will also publish CMS Data Briefs, summarizing complex statistical topics in easily understandable language designed to inform a more diverse community of health analysts and policymakers.
  • CMS Data Navigator: This web-based search tool rapidly connects researchers, policy makers, and the general public to CMS data resources. Navigator results will also link to CMS data housed on external web sites such as the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Institute of Medicine, and the Health Indicators Warehouse. Navigator search results will include publicly available data files, statistics, reports, fact sheets, and interactive tools. The Navigator will improve the transparency of CMS data, allowing users to easily locate CMS data that is currently located in multiple locations on the CMS website, the agency says. The Navigator is expected to reduce the number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for data already available on CMS’ website. The Data Navigator is scheduled to be in operation by mid-summer 2012 and will be located on the website.

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