Accessing CMS Data

Research files created by the NIA Data LINKAGE Program (LINKAGE) link HRS data to detailed information about health care utilization from records maintained by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Learn more about the available CMS data.

Note: The NIA Data LINKAGE Program was formerly known as the Medicare and Medicaid Resource Information Center (MedRIC).

Application Process

Follow these steps to apply for access. If you already have access, see the Post Application Activities page for details on modifying or renewing your agreement.

Unlike other HRS restricted data, the HRS linked CMS data are created and supplied by others. While HRS approval is your first step in applying for the HRS linked CMS data, additional steps are processed and managed by LINKAGE, which operates the secure enclave in which the linked HRS-CMS data will be accessed. You will be notified by HRS upon approval that your application is being handed off to LINKAGE for further processing.

Step 1. Study Team Submits Application for HRS Restricted Data

Submit the RDA Application (CMS-HRS) form to apply for a Restricted Data Agreement (RDA) to access HRS Restricted Data. If you have not already done so, you will need to create a website account. Your research plan must already have been approved by your institution's IRB.

The application can not be saved before submitting, so make sure you have the following information and documentation before you begin:

  • Project title and research abstract
  • A short description of each of the following:
    • The HRS Restricted data products and variables you intend to use in your research, including planned data analyses
    • Why the public data are not adequate for your research purposes
    • How the results you plan to export or publish will comply with the requirements of disclosure limitation review
  • Documentation of Full Board or Expedited IRB review and approval of your research plan, in .pdf format
    • If the study team includes members who do not have a formal affiliation with the receiving institution, IRB documentation from every additional represented institution is also required
  • Information on the requested CMS-HRS data products:
    • Data sets and file years requested
    • Data encryption level (standard, geographic, or provider)
    • A brief justification of requests for data sets with geographic or provider variables (if requested)
  • Information on the study team. Include the following information:
    • name
    • role on project
    • business address and phone number
    • institutional email address (Gmail, Yahoo, or other personal email addresses are not allowed)
    • current CV, in .pdf format
    • indicate if the team member requires access to the data
    • if the Principal Investigator is a student, a letter of support from an advisor is required
  • A completed HRS-RDA User Tracking Spreadsheet, in .xlsx format. Researchers may only access the LINKAGE enclave from the United States.

After the application is submitted, all team members will be prompted to create an account on this website and submit the HRS Disclosure Limitation Review Policy Agreement form.

Step 2. HRS Reviews Application

HRS will review the application and contact you if additional information is needed. HRS will assign a restricted data agreement (RDA) number, which you will use in all future correspondence. Once the application is complete, HRS will contact you with a preliminary approval to seek institutional signature (see Step 3).

Step 3. Researcher Completes Restricted Data Access Agreement

Once you have preliminary approval from HRS, work with your institutional Contracting Authority to complete the HRS Restricted Data Access Use Agreement: LINKAGE Data Access. Note that this agreement requires a signature from an authorized representative of your institution.

Email the signed Restricted Data Access Use Agreement to

Step 4. HRS Finalizes Application

HRS will review the completed application and notify you by email once it is approved. LINKAGE and the NIA Review Board will be CC'd on this approval email, to signal handoff to them to initiate their approval process. All remaining application and approval steps to access the LINKAGE enclave belong to NIA and Acumen.

Step 5. Researcher Applies for Approval from LINKAGE

See the LINKAGE website for more information.

Step 6. Data Access

You will be contacted by LINKAGE staff with the details you need to log in to the LINKAGE Enclave. LINKAGE will build, and assign data permissions, for the CMS data files for you and your research team. LINKAGE will notify HRS of LINKAGE approval, at which time HRS will assign data permissions to the HRS cross-reference file and any other approved HRS data files.