‘Dumb Decision’ or Pro-Obamacare ‘Conspiracy’ at Census Bureau?
Marguerite Bowling /
Some critics of Obamacare are up in arms about the Census Bureau’s intent to change questions it asks millions of Americans about health insurance. Others just think census officials have lousy timing.
The New York Times first reported on internal documents showing the agency’s changes to questions also will change the way Census Bureau officials calculate the number of uninsured Americans.
Because fewer health-related questions will be asked, the new method is expected to lower the estimated number of uninsured Americans, officials said, noting that it would be difficult to attribute any changes to Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act.
Politico noted that some Obamacare opponents, among them Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, said the move would give the public less transparency on the number of uninsured who become covered by the health law.
Although some conservative bloggers smelled a conspiracy in the works, American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Strain argued in a blog that the changes merely represent a dumb decision. “I would be shocked if any such thing was taking place,” Strain wrote, adding, “I see no evidence of a conspiracy here.”
Strain said the agency’s current insurance questions were badly designed and needed improvement, and that efforts to change the questions began years ago. Additionally, other data sources will help determine Obamacare’s effect on insurance coverage, the AEI scholar wrote. He concluded:
None of this to say that the Census Bureau’s decision to change to a new methodology in the midst of Obamacare’s rollout isn’t a dumb decision. … Either the new methodology should be delayed, or the old and the new methodology should be employed concurrently to ensure comparability across years.”
At least five Republican lawmakers – three in the Senate and two in the House — yesterday urged the Census Bureau to keep the old questions as a way to track any shifts caused by Obamacare, Blake Neff reported in The Hill’s Healthwatch blog. Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), John Thune (S.D.), and Orrin Hatch (Utah) wrote to Director John H. Thompson, as did Reps. Darrell Issa (Calif.) and Blake Farenthold (Texas).
This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.