Accuracy of medicare claims data for estimation of cancer incidence and resection rates among elderly Americans

Jeff Whittle, Earl P. Steinberg, Gerard F. Anderson, Robert Herbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


To explore the reliability of Medicare Part A claims data for clinical and health services research related to the care of patients with cancer, the authors compared estimates of the incidence of and resection rates for cancer of the breast, colon, and lung derived from analysis of Medicare Part A data versus data from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program. Incidence rates of breast, colon, and lung cancer esti-mated from Medicare Part A data were within 6% of estimates derived from SEER data. Resection rates estimated from Medicare Part A data, in contrast, were 12% to 27% lower than resection rates based on SEER data. This discrepancy is not explained by variations in practice between regions participating in versus those not participating in the SEER registries but may be due to under-coding of surgical procedures in Medicare Part A data. This analysis suggests that Medicare data can provide useful insights into the care of patients with cancer, but research regarding inpatient procedures employed in management of cancer should be based on analysis of Medicare Parts A and B data combined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1226-1236
Number of pages11
JournalMedical care
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1991


  • Breast cancer
  • Cancer incidence
  • Cancer treatment
  • Claims data
  • Colon cancer
  • Health services research
  • Lung cancer
  • Medicare Part A
  • Methodology
  • Surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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