The Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) is an ongoing survey of a representative national sample of the Medicare population, including beneficiaries aged 65 and over and beneficiaries aged 64 and below with certain disabling conditions. With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) was uniquely positioned to quickly collect vital information on how the pandemic has impacted the Medicare population by using the MCBS as a vehicle to collect data. Medicare beneficiaries, by definition, are most at risk for underlying conditions that may lead to more severe COVID-19 illness or complications.
NORC conducted a series of rapid response telephone surveys with MCBS respondents for the Office of Enterprise Data and Analytics (OEDA) at CMS. This data collection supplemented the annual data collection for the MCBS and helped CMS better understand how COVID-19 affects Medicare beneficiaries and potential program changes in response to the pandemic. The questionnaire content explored topics such as the availability of telemedicine visits, deferred medical care, social distancing and other preventive health behaviors, COVID-19 testing and vaccination, and the consequences for social, emotional, and financial well-being.
The first standalone MCBS COVID-19 Rapid Response Supplement was conducted in June-July 2020 for beneficiaries living in the community who already participated in the MCBS. Data collected from this COVID-19 Summer 2020 Community Supplement were combined with demographic and health status data collected during prior interviews and released in a standalone Public Use File (PUF) in October 2020. After a successful Summer 2020 Community Supplement, the second standalone MCBS COVID-19 Rapid Response Supplement for beneficiaries living in the community was conducted in October-November 2020. Data collected from this COVID-19 Fall 2020 Community Supplement were released in another standalone PUF in January 2021. The third standalone MCBS COVID-19 Rapid Response Supplement for beneficiaries living in the community was conducted in March-April 2021. Data collected from this COVID-19 Winter 2021 Community Supplement were released in a standalone PUF in July 2021. In addition, data collected from both the Summer 2020 and Fall 2020 Community Supplements were released in the 2019 MCBS Survey File Limited Data Set (LDS), and are linkable to other data segments for analysis. Data collected from the Winter 2021 Community Supplement will be released in the 2020 MCBS Survey File LDS. After Winter 2021, a subset of the COVID-19 Community Supplement items were integrated into the main MCBS questionnaire instrument.
A COVID-19 Facility Supplement was also added to MCBS data collection beginning in October 2020. These COVID-19 questions were fielded within the main MCBS Facility Instrument. Data collected from the COVID-19 Fall 2020 Facility Supplement (administered from October-December 2020) will be released in the 2020 MCBS Survey File LDS, and data collected from the COVID-19 Winter 2021 Facility Supplement (administered from January-April 2021) will be released in the 2021 MCBS Survey File LDS. The COVID-19 Facility Supplement will continue to be fielded within the main MCBS Facility Instrument.
To support dissemination of estimates from the MCBS COVID-19 Community Supplements, NORC created the MCBS COVID-19 Data Tool, which is available at NORC’s MCBS Interactives website. The tool consists of a series of evolving, interactive dashboards that show how COVID-19 has affected the lives of Medicare beneficiaries, including preventive behaviors, forgone care, well-being, sources of COVID-19 information, and COVID-19 vaccination. The tool also allows visitors to visualize the data using a variety of demographic and health status filters, such as sex, age, smoking status, and chronic conditions. The tool presents data from the COVID-19 Summer 2020 PUF, COVID-19 Fall 2020 PUF, and COVID-19 Winter 2021 PUF.