Skip to main content

Obtaining CMS Data for Your Research

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has a contract with the Research Data Assistance Center (ResDAC) to facilitate data access requests. The ResDAC website provides all of the necessary information on how to obtain Medicare and/or Medicaid data for researchers, including requests for both restricted and limited datasets as well as public use files (PUF)/non-identifiable files. CMS data are used to complete the specific aims of an NIA grant.

The first step in obtaining CMS data involves submitting a new request to ResDAC for Research Identifiable Files (RIF) and a RIF Data Use Agreement (DUA). An overview of the timeline and process for requesting RIF data is presented in ResDAC’s Knowledgebase article. A ResDAC Technical Advisor will review your request for accuracy and completeness; the ResDAC Advisor is there to ensure your application for data is as strong as possible before it is submitted to CMS. To review the materials needed for your request, see ResDAC’s RIF Data Request page. If you have more questions, ResDAC staff can provide specific advice as you develop your request(s).

In order to obtain access to Medicare data for new research projects, you will need to provide a copy of your RIF DUA form for your Federal Program Officer (FPO) to sign. A DUA is an agreement for use of CMS data containing individual identifiers. The form outlines in detail the confidentiality requirements of the Privacy Act and CMS' data release policies and procedures. For researchers who already have an existing DUA, but are requesting additional data years and/or files, you must complete a DUA Update form. This document is not signed nor finalized until the end of the ResDAC review process.

Once you have an established DUA, you may request a Letter of Support (LOS) from your FPO and make amendments* as updated data files become available. In order to do that, send an email to your FPO citing your active NIA grant number, grant title, your request, and how it relates to your funded grant. Templates of NIA-approved LOS’ are available and accessible on ResDAC’s website.

For all requests requiring NIA FPO approvals, including new projects and LOS requests, please provide:

  1. A copy of the research protocol with the executive summary that you will have already sent to ResDAC;
  2. The number of individuals accessing the data,
  3. The cost estimate (i.e., total costs paid to CMS) associated with the data request. Please cite which portions are paid directly from the active grant (including indirect costs where applicable), and;
  4. If applicable, the source of the reuse data requested.

Once the NIA receives the above materials, we will review your request internally. Below is a matrix to help you determine whether your research request will secure NIA support. It is important to note that the NIA does not grant approval on behalf of CMS; CMS does that directly. Once the NIA reviews the documents provided, we will contact you with an approval (or, a follow-up if materials sent are insufficient). At that point, you may send your approved request(s) to ResDAC and CMS. Remember that whenever there is a change to a study*, the FPO must be made aware of the change and give consent prior to submitting the information to ResDAC for CMS approval.

Will the NIA approve my CMS data request?

  New Request Reuse Request
Active NIA Grant A B
Inactive NIA Grant C D
  1. A new request under an active NIA grant will acquire NIA support from your FPO. For example, if you are requesting data files for the first time (new request) under an active NIA grant, your FPO will support your request so that you may send to CMS directly. This also applies for letters of support to amend* data files.
  2. A reuse request under an active NIA grant may acquire NIA support from your FPO. For example, if you are requesting the reuse of data files from an active DUA associated with an active NIA grant to use towards your own NIA project, your FPO will approve your request. This also applies to letters of support. In an email to your FPO, provide details of the reuse request, e.g., data files and data file years associated with your request and how these files are related to the specific aims of your original research protocol.
  3. A new request under an inactive NIA grant may or may not acquire NIA support. It may acquire NIA support if the request to amend* data files is needed to continue relevant analyses to complete manuscripts/publications. As the researcher, you would have to provide to your FPO the status of the manuscripts, whether they are “in preparation,” “under review,” “revise and resubmit,” “published/presented,” etc. If justified, the FPO will extend the DUA for one year only where work should be completed during this time. Letters of support may be requested during this time as well. If the justification does not apply, the PO will not provide NIA support.
  4. A reuse request under an inactive NIA grant will not acquire NIA support.

*An amendment request to a DUA includes adding new years of data files covered previously under the DUA, adding new data files not covered under the DUA, making a change to the CMS-approved data management plan, and adding new study personnel to the DUA. Each of these amendment request types requires different documentation and necessary steps for CMS review and approval. For specifics on documentation and necessary steps, refer to the additional information provided on the ResDAC website. Please note that changing the specific aims on a research protocol at the inactive stage of an NIA grant will not acquire NIA support.

What is the timeline for FPO approvals?

NIA FPO approval of CMS requests varies depending on the request type. Please see below for request types, explanation associated with the request types, and length of time for approval. Do note that the availability of FPOs may affect completing any request.

Request Type Explanation
DUA extension requests

When CMS sends you a reminder email for a DUA expiration date at the 60-day mark, forward this email directly to your FPO. If your project is active, the FPO will approve your access before the DUA expires. If your project is no longer active, but you require access to data files to complete manuscripts, you must explain this, providing the title(s), status of the manuscript(s), and the journal(s) you plan to submit your work. This will serve as the justification that the NIA will provide to CMS to extend a DUA beyond the project end date. The FPO will send this extension directly to CMS with a copy to you and relevant study personnel.

Note: CMS will extend for one year only; work performed under this extension should be completed during this time.

Signature request from FPO for a new project When a requestor has a new project under an active NIA grant, email this request directly to your FPO for a review of materials (refer to items 1-3 above), including the RIF DUA form for your FPO to sign. The FPO will return the form to you directly.
Request for an LOS (new/amendment) When a requestor has a new project under an active NIA grant, email this request directly to your FPO for a review of materials (refer to items 1-3 above), including the RIF DUA form for your FPO to sign. The FPO will return the form to you directly.
Request for an LOS (reuse) When a requestor requires an LOS for reuse requests (under an active NIA grant), email the letter directly to the FPO for review and approval. The FPO will return the LOS to you directly.

For any questions, please contact Ms. Prisca N. Fall and copy