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About HOS   Program Timeline   HOS Survey Vendors   HOS-M Survey Vendors  Survey Administration


About the Medicare Health Outcomes Survey (HOS)

Introduction to Medicare HOS

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is committed to monitoring the quality of care provided by Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs). To better evaluate this care, CMS, in collaboration with the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), launched the first Medicare managed care outcomes measure in the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS®) in 1998. The measure includes the most recent advances in summarizing physical and mental health outcomes results and appropriate risk adjustment techniques. This measure was initially titled Health of Seniors, and was renamed the Medicare Health Outcomes Survey during the first year of implementation. This name change was intended to reflect the inclusion of people with Medicare who are disabled and under age 65 in the sampling methodology.

The HOS measure was developed under the guidance of a Technical Expert Panel (TEP) comprised of individuals with specific expertise in the health care industry and outcomes measurement. CMS has contracted with NCQA to support the standardized administration of the HOS and HOS-Modified (HOS-M) surveys, including the selection and training of the independent survey vendors. Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs) and Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) organizations contract with the survey vendors to administer the surveys. Information about the HOS-M program, including the HOS-M program timeline, dissemination of results, and sample reports, may be found on the HOS-Modified page.

Medicare HOS Survey Administration Timeline

Each year, a random sample of Medicare beneficiaries is drawn and surveyed from each MAO that has a minimum of 500 enrollees (i.e., a survey is administered to a new baseline cohort, or group, each year). Two years later, the baseline respondents are surveyed again (i.e., follow up measurement). Cohort 1 was surveyed in 1998 and was resurveyed in 2000. Cohort 2 was surveyed in 1999 and was resurveyed in 2001, and so on. During the most recent HOS administration (2023 Round 26), Cohort 26 was surveyed and Cohort 24 was resurveyed using HOS 3.0. Changes in sample selection over time include the following:  

  • For data collection years 1998-2006, the MAO baseline sample size was one thousand. Effective 2007, the MAO baseline sample size is increased to twelve hundred. Since 2019, MAOs may also request a survey sample larger than 1,200. Oversampling is expressed as a whole percentage of the standard sample size. 
  • For data collection years 1998-2008, a member was required to be continuously enrolled in their MAO for a six month period for inclusion in the baseline sample. Effective 2009, the six month enrollment requirement is waived.
  • For data collection years 1998-2009, beneficiaries with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) were excluded. Effective 2010, those with ESRD are no longer excluded. 

Information about the HOS cohorts related to data collection and report dissemination are provided in the table below. Information about the HOS cohorts included in the Medicare Star Ratings may be found in the Star Ratings page. 

Medicare HOS Survey Administration Timeline 
   Data Collection Reports 
  Baseline Follow Up Baseline Follow Up
2023 Cohort 26 Cohort 24 Cohort 25 Cohort 23
2022 Cohort 25 Cohort 23 Cohort 24 Cohort 22
2021 Cohort 24 Cohort 22 Cohort 23 Cohort 21
2020 Cohort 23 Cohort 21 Cohort 22 Cohort 20
2019 Cohort 22 Cohort 20 Cohort 21 Cohort 19
2018 Cohort 21 Cohort 19 Cohort 20 Cohort 18
2017 Cohort 20 Cohort 18 Cohort 19 Cohort 17
2016 Cohort 19 Cohort 17 Cohort 18 Cohort 16
2015 Cohort 18 Cohort 16 Cohort 17 Cohort 15
2014 Cohort 17 Cohort 15 Cohort 16 Cohort 14
2013 Cohort 16 Cohort 14 Cohort 15 Cohort 13
2012 Cohort 15 Cohort 13 Cohort 14 Cohort 12
2011 Cohort 14 Cohort 12 Cohort 13 Cohort 11
2010 Cohort 13 Cohort 11 Cohort 12 Cohort 10
2009 Cohort 12 Cohort 10 Cohort 11 Cohort 9
2008 Cohort 11 Cohort 9 Cohort 10 Cohort 8
2007 Cohort 10 Cohort 8 Cohort 9 Cohort 7
2006 Cohort 9 Cohort 7 Cohort 8 Cohort 6
2005 Cohort 8 Cohort 6 Cohort 7 Cohort 5
2004 Cohort 7 Cohort 5 Cohort 6 Cohort 4
2003 Cohort 6 Cohort 4 Cohort 5 Cohort 3
2002 Cohort 5 Cohort 3 Cohort 4 Cohort 2
2001 Cohort 4 Cohort 2 Cohort 3 Cohort 1
2000 Cohort 3 Cohort 1 Cohort 2  
1999 Cohort 2   Cohort 1  
1998 Cohort 1      

Development of the Medicare HOS Instrument

In the mid-1990s, Medicare beneficiaries were joining health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and other types of managed care organizations (MCOs) in increasing numbers. It became apparent to CMS that the Agency needed performance reporting requirements for Medicare managed care. CMS worked with NCQA to incorporate the Medicare population into NCQA's HEDIS® performance measurement set. HEDIS® was rapidly becoming a standard reporting requirement of purchasers in the commercial insurance market. 

The integration of the Medicare population into HEDIS® was achieved with the release of HEDIS® 3.0. CMS, NCQA, and others felt there was a need to develop additional measures for the Medicare population including an "outcomes" measure for HEDIS®. Traditionally, HEDIS® contained "process" measures that assessed interventions such as mammograms for older women and retinal eye exams for people with diabetes. While evidence in the scientific literature tied the measured processes or interventions to favorable patient outcomes, there was a desire to develop an outcomes measure that captured performance across multiple aspects of care.

Medicare HOS 1.0

CMS, NCQA, Health Assessment Lab (HAL), and performance measurement experts worked together to develop a measure that would assess the physical functioning and mental well-being of Medicare beneficiaries over time. It was decided that this measure should include additional items to allow for case mix adjustment, which is essential for meaningful and valid plan-to-plan comparisons of health outcomes. The HOS measure was approved for inclusion in HEDIS® by the Committee on Performance Measurement (CPM), the NCQA panel that oversees the development and evolution of HEDIS®.

HOS results continue to be an important part of CMS' quality improvement activities, to ensure that medical care paid for under the Medicare program meets professionally recognized standards of health care. Section 722 of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 mandates the collection, analysis, and reporting of health outcomes information. This legislation also specifies that data collected on quality, outcomes, and beneficiary satisfaction to facilitate consumer choice and program administration must utilize the types of data collected prior to November 1, 2003. Collected since 1998, the Medicare Health Outcomes Survey is the first patient-reported outcomes measure in Medicare managed care and therefore remains a critical part of assessing health plan quality. The Medicare HOS 1.0 survey instrument can be downloaded from NCQA’s website (www.ncqa.org/hedis/measures/hos).

Medicare HOS 2.0 

In the Spring of 2006 CMS implemented the Medicare HOS 2.0. The Medicare HOS 2.0 contains four major components:  

  • The Veterans RAND 12-Item Health Survey (VR-12)
  • Questions to gather information for case-mix and risk-adjustment
  • Questions to collect results for four HEDIS Effectiveness of Care measures
  • Additional health questions 

Changes in HOS 2.0 from the original HOS measure (described below) include a reduction in outcome items (from 36 items to 12 items), the removal of redundant or less useful items (UI question, stroke complications), the addition of HEDIS® measures for osteoporosis testing and fall risk management, and height and weight questions for calculation of Body Mass Index. The Medicare HOS 2.0 survey instrument can be downloaded from NCQA’s website (www.ncqa.org/hedis/measures/hos). Further information about the VR-12, scoring algorithms, and documentation are available from the measure developer's website.

Medicare HOS 2.5 

In the Spring of 2013, CMS implemented the Medicare HOS 2.5. The Medicare HOS 2.5 contains the following major components:  

  • The Veterans RAND 12-Item Health Survey (VR-12)
  • Questions to gather information for case-mix and risk-adjustment
  • Questions to collect results for four HEDIS Effectiveness of Care measures
  • Revised questions on race, ethnicity, primary language, sex and disability status (Section 4302 of the Affordable Care Act)
  • Additional health questions 

The HOS 2.5 uses the VR-12 as the core physical and mental health outcomes measures and the four HEDIS Effectiveness of Care measures are the Osteoporosis Testing in Older Women, Physical Activity in Older Adults, Management of Urinary Incontinence in Older Adults, and Fall Risk Management measures. Changes in the HOS 2.5 compared to the HOS 2.0 include the following items. As part of the Affordable Care Act, questions on race, ethnicity, sex, primary language, and disability status were updated. Depression was added to the chronic condition list. New questions also include Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs), cognitive function, memory, living arrangements, and a new rating of pain level, while questions about chest pain, shortness of breath, leg/foot problems, arthritis pain and low back pain were removed. Two questions about vision and hearing and four questions previously used for a depression screen have been replaced with new questions. The Medicare HOS 2.5 survey instrument can be downloaded from NCQA’s website (www.ncqa.org/hedis/measures/hos).

Medicare HOS 3.0

In the Spring of 2015, CMS implemented the Medicare HOS 3.0; the latest version of the HOS questionnaire. The Medicare HOS 3.0 contains the following major components:

  • The Veterans RAND 12-Item Health Survey (VR-12)
  • Questions to gather information for case-mix and risk-adjustment
  • Questions to collect results for four HEDIS Effectiveness of Care measures
  • Questions on race, ethnicity, primary language, sex and disability status (Section 4302 of the Affordable Care Act)
  • Additional health questions, including new and revised questions

In a formatting change from previous versions of the HOS, the new survey uses a two column layout for each page. Other modifications in the HOS 3.0 as compared with the HOS 2.5 include changes to questions about leakage of urine, osteoporosis testing in older women, sleep, and primary language spoken in the home. The Medicare HOS 3.0 survey instrument can downloaded from NCQA’s website (www.ncqa.org/hedis/measures/hos).


This page was last modified on 02/15/2024

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