NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Changes to U.S. Census Questions Could Cloud ObamaCare Impact

April 17, 2014

The U.S. Census Bureau is altering the questions it asks about health insurance so fundamentally that it will be hard to weigh the impact of President Obama's health care law against previous year's findings, says the Washington Examiner.

  • A test run with the new questionnaire produced lower estimates of the uninsured than in previous years, which could result in overestimates of the Affordable Care Act's impact on increasing the numbers of those with insurance nationwide.
  • As first reported by The New York Times, the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House Council of Economic Advisers requested many of the new questions, and the White House Office of Management and Budget approved the new questionnaire.
  • The Obama administration has reported that 7.5 million people signed up for insurance on state and federal exchanges by the March 31 deadline and that enrollment in Medicaid has increased by 3 million since October.
  • Officials so far say they don't have estimates of the number of enrollees who actually paid their first month's premium or how many young healthy people have signed up for the plan, a key measure of the new law's success.

Concrete information has been scarce about those who are signing up for the law and how it is affecting the level of uninsured across the country.

Republicans are crying foul on the new questions, but Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson defended the timing of the new questions, saying they are based on 14 years of research and two national tests conducted in 2010 and 2013.

Source: Susan Crabtree, "Changes to U.S. Census Questions Could Cloud ObamaCare Impact," Washington Examiner, April 15, 2014.


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