What Survey Data Tell Us

There are two surveys that can provide information in support of the Frail Elders project – the federal Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) and the Vermont Household Health Insurance Survey (VHHIS).  Each of these can provide useful information but their value increases substantially if their information can be combined.

The MCBS is a national survey, containing a wide range of information on Medicare beneficiaries, including both utilization of medical services, health status, specific chronic diseases, and ADLs (activities of daily living).  Because it is a national survey, too few Vermont residents would be included to allow for any analysis.

VHHIS is currently managed by the Vermont Department of Health.  In the past, it has been managed by the Department of Financial Regulation.  VHHIS is a large survey, designed to analyze health insurance coverage, socioeconomics, and knowledge of the health care system among Vermont families.  While it provides excellent information in these areas, it does not include any health status information that would be useful to understand the needs of frail elders other than self-reported health status.

In order to provide information useful to this project, we explored the possibility of merging information from the two files.  An example of a merger would be to apply the percentage of Medicare beneficiaries with Diabetes (from MCBS) to the number of Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and over in Vermont (from VHHIS).

Prior to actually merging information, we looked at how comparable variables were that were common to both surveys.  The table below shows a typical comparison.  “Community” means MCBS information is limited to those who were not in long-term care for the year, which matches the scope of VHHIS (which does not include those living in institutions such as nursing homes).

Self-Reported Health Status

VHHIS

Community MCBS

Excellent

17.4%

15.9%

 

Very Good

31.8%

28.8%

 

Good

29.4%

29.6%

 

Fair

15.0%

18.0%

 

Poor

6.2%

7.7%

 

DK / UNK

0.3%

 

 

As can be seen, there is good agreement between the two sources.  The next step was to apply MCBS percentages to the Vermont Medicare population (example below).

Number of Chronic Conditions

MCBS Percent

Estimated VT Medicare

None

5.4%

5,989

1-2

31.7%

35,160

3-4

39.1%

43,368

5 or More

23.8%

26,398

Total

 

110,916

As this analytic effort proceeds, additional information will be posted.

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