MCBS stands for the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS).

The MCBS is an ongoing survey designed to learn more about the people who are covered by Medicare. MCBS data help legislators and policy makers understand the health care needs and utilization of Americans covered by Medicare.

MCBS data are also used to improve the Medicare program. The MCBS is an invaluable source of information for administering, monitoring, and evaluating the Medicare program. For example, data from the MCBS have been used to inform many enhancements to Medicare coverage, including the creation of new benefits such as Medicare’s Part D prescription drug benefit.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) oversees the Medicare program and sponsors this survey. CMS is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). CMS contracted with NORC at the University of Chicago (NORC) to conduct the MCBS. NORC engages in sampling, data collection, data processing, and data delivery as part of conducting the MCBS.


The MCBS began in 1991. The survey has been continuously conducted for over 30 years.

More than 1.2 million interviews have been conducted and over 140,000 Medicare beneficiaries have participated in the MCBS since it started in 1991.

The MCBS is a continuous, phone and in-person survey. New participants are added to the sample each year. Each participant completes up to three interviews per year over a period of four years.

The MCBS is the leading source of information for legislators and policy makers on Medicare and its impact on beneficiaries.

MCBS data help policy makers determine benefit needs and set funding levels for the Medicare program.

Data from the MCBS are used to estimate health care expenditures for beneficiaries, and create a better understanding of the experiences of Medicare beneficiaries.

Survey Overview


Together, the survey participants represent all of the nation’s 61.2 million people who are covered by Medicare. Interviews are conducted by professional interviewers from NORC at the University of Chicago who read questions from a computer.

Individuals who are selected to participate are scientifically selected from the Medicare administrative files. Participants cannot be substituted.

In the MCBS, each participant is selected as part of a panel and is interviewed up to three times per year over a four year period.

A key feature of the MCBS design is that beneficiaries remain in the survey even if they live in long-term care facilities during their participation in the survey.



The Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) is an ongoing survey designed to learn more about the people who use Medicare and to improve the Medicare program. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, oversees the Medicare program and sponsors this survey. MCBS data provide legislators, policy makers, and Congress with more information about how Medicare is used and how it affects beneficiaries like you.


  • Your response helps improve the quality of care you and others covered by Medicare receive.
  • Help the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services understand how Medicare affects your daily life and what problems you might be experiencing with your coverage.
  • Help create effective laws and regulations for people covered by Medicare. Legislators and policy makers use the MCBS to make policy decisions and to:
    • Determine whether the Medicare program is meeting the needs of current beneficiaries.
    • Create summary reports to describe key factors about how people use their Medicare coverage.
  • Have fun! Our participants enjoy participating in the MCBS and getting to know their interviewer. Similarly, our interviewers, NORC, and CMS collectively value each participant’s time and involvement in this important research effort.

As part of a randomly selected sample of beneficiaries, you represent thousands of other Medicare beneficiaries. Your participation is important to accurately represent the experiences of all types of beneficiaries in the United States, regardless of health status. You cannot be replaced.

Your answers are protected under the Federal Privacy Act of 1974. The information you report is combined with information provided by many others and only used to describe Medicare beneficiaries as a group. No information that could identify you individually is publicly released.