CMS releases more Medicare Advantage data to research community

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For the second time, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has released Medicare Advantage encounter data to researchers, providing a more comprehensive view of care provided to beneficiaries.

CMS announced on Wednesday that it is making final Calendar Year 2015 MA encounter data available to the research community to “help drive innovation to improve quality of care, lower costs and to better understand the experience of patients in private health plans.”

Last year, the agency—for the first time—released preliminary MA encounter data as part of the Trump administration’s MyHealthEData initiative, and announced plans to make the information available annually.

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“Today’s announcement demonstrates our continued commitment to ensuring researchers have access to this data in order to conduct important, innovative analyses that have the potential to drive transformation of the healthcare system—all while keeping that information private, safe and secure,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma in a written statement.

According to CMS, the MA encounter data—like fee-for-service claims data—includes provider identifiers, dates of service, type of service and diagnosis codes. However, the agency contends that this year’s release benefits from some enhancements.

“CMS has made several improvements in the final version of 2015 MA encounter data files,” states the announcement. “These modifications include changes to the final action logic, making it easier for researchers to identify records to include in their analyses. CMS improved chart review guidance by providing detailed explanations to identify specific actions taken with a chart review record.”

Those researchers interested in accessing the new MA encounter data must submit a request for research identifiable files to the CMS Research Data Assistance Center, as well as sign a data use agreement that contains strict beneficiary privacy and data security requirements. More information is available here.

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