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Census taker interviewing man.
The New York Times is reporting a change in how the census is going to count the uninsured, asserting that the bureau "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." This story has all the potential to give ammunition to the law's opponents with more "cooking the books" allegations.
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.
The indispensable Sarah Kliff has the whole story, a story that really clarifies this change in the survey instrument and what it could mean for estimating the numbers of uninsured.
What's being missed here is that the Obama administration will use the new survey questions to collect data for 2013, the year prior to Obamacare's health insurance expansion, a senior administration official says.

The Census Bureau reports the health insurance rate with a one-year delay; in September 2013, for example, the agency reported the percent of Americans without coverage in 2012. It will most likely report the uninsured rate for 2013 sometime this coming fall.

In other words: The survey will make it difficult to compare the uninsured rate for 2012, the last year for the old questions, and 2013, the first year for the new questions. But making the change now means that 2013 and 2014–the year before and after Obamacare's big programs started–are using the same question set.

The new survey questions are designed to give a more accurate picture of people's insurance status throughout the year. Instead of asking if they'd been insured at any point in the past year, it will ask if they currently have insurance, and include follow-up questions to determine when that coverage was obtained and how many months it's been in effective. Census officials say that this will give about a 15-month, month-to-month history of coverage that will be more accurate than the previous count.

As Kliff points out, there are other established and reliable measures of how many Americans are uninsured, like Gallup's (which, by the way, found the lowest rate of uninsured since 2008 in its most recent survey). The Gallup survey, for one, will provide continuity of data to provide a point of comparison with census data.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 12:09 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (12+ / 0-)

    "The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. [...] There would be no place to hide."--Frank Church

    by Joan McCarter on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 12:09:47 PM PDT

  •  So is this good or bad? (0+ / 0-)

    It sounds like it could be good, but as you mentioned, it also sounds like the rightwing lunatics will use it as ammo, since they don't care what is good or bad for people as long as they can score political points.

    Ed FitzGerald for governor Of Ohio. Women's lives depend on it.

    by anastasia p on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 12:32:38 PM PDT

  •  Horrible timing (0+ / 0-)

    if you want to see the effects of ACA in reality

    "The oppressors most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko

    by gjohnsit on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 12:39:05 PM PDT

    •  Not really. The effect of ACA will be (0+ / 0-)

      apparent from insurance companies.

      The number of enrollees, profits etc. will provide data that cannot be disputed like the data provided by Obama administration can be disputed by the right wingers.

      Free market will set right wingers free!

    •  Not really, since the report covers 2013 (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      katesmom, hamjudo

      They release this report every September, I believe, and it covers the previous year.

      So even under the old system, we wouldnt be able to tell much about the effect of ACA.

  •  The report always covers the previous year (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    katesmom, hamjudo, ColoTim

    Even though it is released late in the year, September, it covers the previous year.

    So since this would cover 2013, we wouldnt have gotten much of look at ACA's effect anyway.

    As far as right wingers, they will criticize any good news on ACA so I doubt this matters. It's not like they were going to buy any good news from a government agency anyway.

  •  These kinds of changes used to be small things, (0+ / 0-)

    barely noticed by anyone. Then, Obama takes office and all of a sudden every single little change in the way a bureaucracy manages it's responsibilities becomes a front page story in the New York Times.

  •  so what will happen is, because so many (0+ / 0-)

    Americans on the Right are infantile, they'll lie if asked and go smirk about it. Then they'll go on about how wonderful they are because they have jesus.

    That's America!

    Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility. uid 52583 lol

    by terrypinder on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 03:55:58 PM PDT

  •  This is just such a good change ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Why, it will be much more accurate! A much better measure! More scientific and reliable.

    Yes, let's do it, right in the frickin' beginning of the rollout of the most major change in health care coverage in America in ... how many decades?

    Not like it has any political implications or anything, not in a off-Presidential year, not when it's THE most politicized issue since, er, the 2010 off-Presidential year elections.

    One thing this is not is a little statistical thingy that we needn't care about. What in the hell were they thinking?

    2014 is HERE. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

    by TRPChicago on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 04:20:36 PM PDT

  •  Is the GOP, Tea Party, Koch Addictives , (0+ / 0-)

    the heartless and angry White guys that I think they are, so far; yes is my answer to myself on this.  They have one goal:   to expand profits in the petro-chemical, products industry.  We do have the greatest inventions at our finger tips thanks to the chemical industry.  Plastic is a petroleum product.  It is everywhere people are.  It's hard to understand that it is made from cheap oil.  We just take it for granted.  Can we replace it?  Can we significantly lower our consumption?   Can we stop fossil fuel over-consumption and adapt to a plastic replacement?  The GOP, Tea Party, Koch Addictives are out to do the opposite of reasonable control of cheap oil consumption and working to lessen dractically our use of it:  they intend to expand our use thereby their profits in the chemical-oil industry.  How? By ripping us off on Wall Street and electing people to do their bidding on key issue-votes.  

    The XL Pipeline is a Koch baby waiting to be born.

  •  They should release both metrics. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    All the work is in collecting the data, not in computing results from it.

    Just release both metrics for a few years - doing so would help illuminate the quality difference between them.

  •  Why do they want to know, and by whose (0+ / 0-)

    standards will they judge

    how many months it's been in effective.
    Sorry.  It was too juicy to pass up.

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