Republicans question motive of Census Bureau survey changes


Republicans in both houses of Congress urged the Census Bureau Thursday to maintain its old questions used for tracking how many U.S. residents have health insurance in order to better observe any shifts caused by ObamaCare.

In the Senate, Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Abortion rights group plans M campaign to flip the House Senate health committee to hold hearing on Trump drug pricing plan Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — VA reform bill heads to Trump's desk MORE (R-Tenn.), John ThuneJohn Randolph ThunePoll: 8 in 10 people in key states concerned about driverless cars Hillicon Valley: Mnuchin urges antitrust review of tech | Progressives want to break up Facebook | Classified election security briefing set for Tuesday | Tech CEOs face pressure to appear before Congress Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA MORE (R-S.D.) and Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchOvernight Finance: Trump signs Dodd-Frank rollback | Snubs key Dems at ceremony | Senate confirms banking regulator | Lawmakers lash out on Trump auto tariffs Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Abortion rights group plans M campaign to flip the House Senate GOP sounds alarm over Trump's floated auto tariffs MORE (R-Utah) sent a letter to Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson urging him to keep using current health insurance coverage questions for two more years while the bureau rolls out a set of new questions.

“We respectfully request that you continue to collect data using both the old and new survey questions for this year and next year,” the senators said in their letter. “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 Senators added that it was "alarming" that the administration appeared to be acting to obscure ObamaCare's effects, and asked for answers regarding what role the White House played in deciding to implement the new survey questions.

On the House side, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Blake FarentholdRandolph (Blake) Blake FarentholdSenators introduce bill to overhaul sexual harassment policy Freedom Caucus bruised but unbowed in GOP primary fights Five races to watch in the Texas runoffs MORE (R-Texas) sent their own letter to Thompson questioning the Bureau's decision. Issa heads the House Oversight Committee, while Farenthold heads the subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and the Census. The representatives requested that the administration turn over all communications between and among employees of the Census Bureau, the Department of Health and Human Services and several other government agencies regarding the implementation of the revised questions.

"We have serious concerns about the timing of this revision given the purported input and approval of officials at the White House and HHS of these revamped survey questions," the representatives said.

The forthcoming "total revision" of the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey questions regarding health insurance was first reported Tuesday in The New York Times. The changes, the Bureau notes, will make new measurements of insurance coverage incompatible with old data gathered in prior years. The changes are especially contentious because the Census Bureau’s surveys are the most authoritative source on what proportion of U.S. residents have health insurance.