Census Health Change Sparks Mini-Freakout Over Obamacare

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), left, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).
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The U.S. Census Bureau’s decision to change its annual survey — reported Tuesday by the New York Times — drew the ire of Republicans and some nonpartisan health policy scholars, who complained that it would make it harder to measure Obamacare’s effects on the uninsured rate.

The fear was that the metric would change between 2013 and 2014, making it very difficult to discern the health care law’s impact on insurance coverage. That would’ve been problematic. But the Census revisions, set for this fall, will measure data from 2013 onward. That means researchers will have a direct comparison from 2013 to 2014, the most critical period during which Obamacare’s main coverage expansion took effect.

“We will still have an apples to apples comparison of 2013 vs. 2014 in the current [census],” Larry Levitt, vice president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, said in an email. He said the new Census questions are a more accurate indicator of insurance coverage.

According to the Times, internal tests involving the new survey suggested that the old survey was inflating the number of uninsured people in America.

The prospect of an artificial drop in the uninsured rate under Obama and the implication of a “break” in the data set off Republicans, who are raising hell about the law ahead of the 2014 elections. The criticism was expressed in tweets from Rory Cooper, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), among others.

Amanda Carpenter, a speechwriter and senior communications adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), also chimed in.

What the Census change means is that there won’t be a definitive comparison of how insurance rates were affected from 2012 to 2013. The metric will effectively reset starting with 2013 figures.

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Notable Replies

  1. Avatar for bdtex bdtex says:

    I love GOP freakouts. They’re so genuine.

  2. Oh, you just knew this was coming as soon as you read the article. GOP freak outs are so predictable.

  3. The GOP has a certain paranoia about the ACA. I’ve followed politics for a long time and I’ve never seen such a rabid mouth frothing response to a law as the ACA has engendered. Not eve medicare in 1965. And what amazes me is the ACA is sending millions of new customers to private insurance companies thereby enhancing their bottom line in exactly the way a republican should get goose bumps over. Are not republicans in favor of businesses making a good and steady profit?? The level of opposition to the ACA makes no sense to me. ordinary opposition as in a power struggle I can understand but not this rabid rejection of something that should be right in the republicans wheel house.

  4. My mother taught me not to make fun of peoples’ appearance, but Cruz looks absolutely demented. Always.

  5. It’s not like the Obama Administration suddenly hit on this idea and rammed the change through. According to the story in the NY Times, it’s a change that has been in the works for a long time:

    Census officials and researchers have long expressed concerns about the old version of insurance questions in the Current Population Survey, and for more than a decade the agency has been trying to make it more accurate.

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