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Alexander, Thune, Hatch urge Census Bureau to keep questions on uninsured

by
Census Bureau
Census Bureau
 

WASHINGTON D.C. (KELO-AM) U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) today sent a letter to Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson urging the administration to continue asking the existing health insurance coverage questions in the Census Bureau’s annual survey, along with its planned new questions, for two years.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Census Bureau is this year changing its annual Current Population Survey questions regarding health insurance coverage to an extent that will make it difficult to measure the new health care law’s impact on health insurance coverage.

The senators write: “We respectfully request that you continue to collect data using both the old and new survey questions for this year and next year.  Of course we always want the best statistical information, but the collection of only one year of comparable data is insufficient.  Continuing to collect data using both the old and new survey questions will help ensure that you do not conflate a change in measurement with changes due to implementation of the new health care law.”

The full text of the letter is below:  

April 17, 2014

The Honorable John H. Thompson               Director                                                                      U.S. Census Bureau                                                   U.S. Department of Commerce                                 4600 Silver Hill Road                                                Washington, DC 20233                                             

Dear Director Thompson:

We are concerned about reports of changes to the Current Population Survey that could prevent Congress and the American people from knowing the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

On April 15, 2014, The New York Times reported that your agency “is changing its annual survey so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama’s health care law in the next report.”  Congress and the American people count on the Census Bureau to provide an accurate report of the law’s impact on health insurance coverage, so it is alarming that the administration appears to be altering survey questions in a way that will obscure the law's impact.  We are deeply troubled by this and the American people should be too.

We respectfully request that you continue to collect data using both the old and new survey questions for this year and next year.  Of course we always want the best statistical information, but the collection of only one year of comparable data is insufficient.  Continuing to collect data using both the old and new survey questions will help ensure that you do not conflate a change in measurement with changes due to implementation of the new health care law. 

Further, to avoid the appearance of impropriety and the seeming intent to manipulate data, we request answers to the following questions which will aid Congress in its oversight of these changes.

1) Did your agency receive public comments expressing concerns related to the new survey questions?   

2) Did your agency take into account the comments that were received, and what changes if any were made as a result of the public comments you received?

3) Is one year of comparable data sufficient to provide a baseline to evaluate the impact of a new law?

4) Will the collection of data using both the old and new survey questions help to produce a more accurate baseline?

5) What role did the White House, the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the White House Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the U.S. Department of Labor have in your decision to implement the new survey questions?  Please provide all documents and communications related to changes to the annual survey with these parties, or any other federal agencies.

6) Please provide all documents and communications related to the potential impact of the proposed changes in data collection on the number of insured or uninsured that would be reported in the study.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter, and we look forward to your reply in the very near future.   Permalink: http://www.thune.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2014/4/alexander-thune-hatch-urge-census-bureau-to-keep-questions-on-uninsured-in-order-to-understand-impact-of-obamacare

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