The Census Bureau, the authoritative source of health insurance data for more than three decades, 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, due this fall, census officials said.
The changes are intended to improve the accuracy of the survey, being conducted this month in interviews with tens of thousands of households around the country. But the new questions are so different that the findings will not be comparable, the officials said.
An internal Census Bureau document said that the new questionnaire included a “total revision to health insurance questions” and, in a test last year, produced lower estimates of the uninsured. Thus, officials said, it will be difficult to say how much of any change is attributable to the Affordable Care Act and how much to the use of a new survey instrument.
“We are expecting much lower numbers just because of the questions and how they are asked,” said Brett J. O’Hara, chief of the health statistics branch at the Census Bureau.
With the new questions, “it is likely that the Census Bureau will decide that there is a break in series for the health insurance estimates,” says another agency document describing the changes. This “break in trend” will complicate efforts to trace the impact of the Affordable Care Act, it said.
Obviously with a big new law you need new questions too, I suppose, plus the old questions ought not to hang around. You can read more here.
As a side note, I have been reading far too many blog posts about “numbers enrolled” as a metric of success for Obamacare. That has never been a good test of the serious criticisms (and defenses) of ACA.
I thank Megan and Garett for the pointers.
Addendum: You should read this update from Vox, though I am not satisfied with the Administration’s response.