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 AlexanderLamar AlexanderSenate sends far-ranging medical cures bill to Obama's desk It’ll take at least two years to repeal and replace ObamaCare GOP eager to see Harry Reid go MORE (R-Tenn.), John ThuneJohn ThuneOvernight Tech: AT&T, Time Warner CEOs defend merger before Congress | More tech execs join Trump team | Republican details path to undoing net neutrality Overnight Tech: Big win for Samsung over Apple | Trump to sit down with tech leaders | Trump claims credit for B investment deal Senate Dems may block water bill over drought language MORE (R-S.D.) and Orrin HatchOrrin HatchOvernight Finance: Trump blasts Carrier's union leader | What's in the spending bill | Jamie Dimon gets perch for Trump era | AT&T, Time Warner execs grilled The Hill's 12:30 Report Hatch to meet with Trump Cabinet picks Thursday 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 FarentholdBlake FarentholdGOP rep would 'consider' pulling support if Trump said he liked rape, promptly apologizes Patent reforms must also include our trade courts Congress' new opportunity to protect free speech: Voting to pass SPEAK FREE 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.