Health Plan Data: A Rich Resource Ripe with Challenges

July 2000

In working with health plan data, researchers have discovered an array of challenges, ranging from convincing the plans to cooperate to addressing the difficulties of generalizing findings based on a single plan’s data. Despite the limitations and complications, most researchers remain convinced that plan data is an irreplaceable resource. The need, therefore, is to work through the challenges of
developing research topics and structuring projects to meet the needs of both researchers and plans. To help researchers sort through the variety of issues involved, the Changes in Health Care Financing and Organization (HCFO) program held a small invitational meeting in July 1999. This report seeks to follow up on the issues and ideas discussed at the meeting in a way that supports researchers’efforts to make the fullest possible use of this resource.