Frequently Asked Questions



Q. What is the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey?

A. The Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, called the MCBS for short, is a study to learn more about the people who use Medicare. The MCBS began to collect information about health and cost of care for people in September 1991. It has been conducted continuously since then because of the extreme value this data provides in understanding and rethinking Medicare and health care policies in this country. If you take part in this ongoing study, a specially trained interviewer will come to your house. The interviewer will ask questions about your health care and how much it costs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, sponsors this study, and also oversees the Medicare program. In sponsoring this study, CMS hopes to gain valuable insight from you.

Q. Why is the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey needed?
A. The study will help us understand how Medicare affects you, and what, if any, problems you have with it. The information you give us will be used to make Medicare work better for you, both now and in the future.

Q. How was I selected for the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey?
A. It would be too big an undertaking to speak with everyone receiving Medicare benefits since there are over 60 million beneficiaries. We have scientifically selected your name from the Medicare administrative files, and we cannot substitute another person for you in this study. You, along with the 16,000 other Medicare beneficiaries have been selected to participate in this study this year. Each study participant represents all of the nation's 60 million Medicare beneficiaries. Your Medicare experiences represent thousands of other people, making your participation critical.

Q. How do I know my answers will be kept private?
A. We guarantee it. Only people working on the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) will see the information you give the interviewer. The Privacy Act of 1974 states that the answers you give will not be connected with your name. The information you give will only be used for summary statistics or put into graphs and tables.

Q. How much time will this take?

A. Because we will use a computer to record your information, the time required to complete the interview is reduced. Your interviewer will ask you questions regarding your health care coverage, prescription drug utilization, and other health care costs. Because each individual's circumstance is unique, interview times may vary from person to person. Interviews may take as little as one hour or they may extend longer based on the individual circumstance. All interviews will be scheduled at your convenience.

Q. What will you be asking me about?

A. In the beginning, we will ask you general questions such as where you usually go for health care and your health insurance coverage. In later interviews, we will ask you about the type of health care you received. We will also ask about the costs of services, including costs not covered by Medicare. Your interviewer can give you a planner and a tote bag or folder to help you in responding to questions on cost and use of health care services. Many participants like using the planner as it also helps organize their medical information.

Q. Why is it important to answer the survey questions?

A. We want to improve Medicare. To do that, we need to learn about your experiences with health care. Each person who takes part makes the study stronger. You do not have to answer any questions you don't want to answer. However, most people find the interview enjoyable.

Q. What will be done with the information from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey?

A. We will be producing statistical reports. These reports will describe the use and cost of health care for Medicare beneficiaries, where you go for care, how you feel about your care, and payment for health care.

Q. Who is NORC at the University of Chicago?

A. NORC at the University of Chicago serves the public interest and improves lives through objective social science research that supports informed decision making. Founded in 1941, NORC has helped establish and continues to strengthen the rapidly evolving field of social science research. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have chosen NORC to help conduct this study. To find more information view NORC's website here.

Q. How will I recognize the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey interviewer?

A. The interviewer who calls on you is a NORC representative living in your area. He or she will be wearing a NORC identification badge. The front of the identification badge contains a photograph of the interviewer's face, along with their name, title, ID number, and signature. The back of the identification badge includes a distinctive hologram in the upper left corner along with a phone number to call to establish whether the person is a legitimate NORC Field Interviewer. A picture of the official NORC identification badge is shown below.

Q. Am I required to do this?

A. No, your participation is voluntary. However, your answers are very important to us and may have a significant impact on the overall outcome of the survey.

Q. Will I lose my Social Security, Medicare, or other government benefits if I don’t do this?

A. No, your benefits will not be affected by your decision to participate in the survey. However, this is a very important study, and your participation will help us to better understand the needs of people on Medicare.

Q. I have never been sick/I don’t think anything about my health or life would be useful to your study.

A. Your information is as important to us as the information of each of the other 16,000 Medicare beneficiaries participating in this study. Your information is just as helpful and important as the information of someone with vastly different experiences, because together you represent the span of experiences with Medicare. Your participation will provide important information helping us to understand how people can lead fuller, healthier lives as they age.

Q. I had a bad experience with Medicare/the government recently. Why should I help?

A. We are sorry that you had a disappointing experience. However, this is a special research effort and we hope to make your relationship with us a pleasant one. By participating in this study, you can help provide researchers and policymakers with crucial information on how to improve public programs.