Graduate Student Research

CMS data can be a great resource for student research projects, including dissertations. Students may request to use Research Identifiable (RIF)Limited Data Sets (LDS), or Public Use Files (PUF)/Non-Identifiable data for their studies. The RIF data provide the greatest level of detail about Medicare and/or Medicaid enrollment and utilization, so these files are frequently of interest to students.  Below are a few things for students to keep in mind when considering RIF data for a study.

ResDAC Assistance

After reviewing the available files on our website, we recommend that you contact ResDAC early in the process to discuss your study plans and the most appropriate files to meet your study needs. As with any true research project, you will be eligible to request the RIF data, but depending on your study needs, you may be able to complete your project with LDS or even PUF data.

Cost of Data

Students are required to pay for the purchase of any new data. Please contact ResDAC for information on the cost of RIF data. If another researcher at your organization already has the data you would like to use for your study, you can request to reuse that data. The reuse fee can be up to $2,000, but CMS waives the reuse fee for student dissertation/thesis research.  To find out who at your organization has a particular dataset, please contact CMS at

Request Process Information

Every study that involves either RIF or LDS data requires a separate Data Use Agreement (DUA) with CMS. Therefore, you will need to request your own DUA for your study. Even if you are working with researchers on another study at your organization and those analyses are related to what you would like to study, you will need to apply for a separate DUA.

The RIF request process will take at least 3-4 months, so RIF data is not appropriate for projects that need to be completed in a short amount of time. Please see the RIF data request timeline for more details.

Students are required to complete the same paperwork as other requestors. Please note that as a student, you will not be able to sign as the “User” (legal authority) on the Data Use Agreement. Either your supervising faculty member (e.g. dissertation chair) OR the legal authority at your organization that typically signs DUAs will be required to sign your DUA as User. Please see some tips that we have for completing the DUA and other required materials.