Medicare Cost Reports: The Value of “Usage” & Role in File Location


Cost report variables are split between two data files depending on the format of the variable. A master table lists all cost report variables and the format. The “Usage” column in the master table specifies the format of the variable, which determines the file location.

Current Version Date:
Table: List of data elements with worksheet, line, and column designations

The master table, called “Table 3 - List of Data Elements with Worksheet, Line, and Column Designations", identifies the format of each variable. This table is found at the end of the cost report form instructions in the section titled “Electronic Reporting Specifications…”  All cost report form instructions are found in the Provider Reimbursement Manual, 15-2.

Cost report variables are assigned to a data file based on the format of field.  One data file, called the “ALPH” file, contains all character variables.  The other file, called the “NMRC” file, contains all numeric variables. The “Usage” field contains the variable format and determines whether the variable is found in the “ALPH” or “NMRC” file. Table 1 below lists the “Usage” values, descriptions, and file location of each variable type.

Usage Value Usage Value Description Variable File Location
X Variable value is a character ALPH file
9 Variable value is a number greater than or equal to zero NMRC file
-9 Variable value may be either greater than or less than zero. NMRC file
9(x).9(y) Variable value is a number, greater than zero, with up to x or fewer digits to the left of the decimal, a decimal point, and exactly y digits to the right of the decimal. NMRC file
Table 1. “Usage” variable definitions and file location