Census Bureau responds to report of Hatch letter regarding new population survey

Photo courtesy of U.S. Census Bureau, St. George News

WASHINGTON D.C. – As reported by St. George News Friday, U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch, Lamar Alexander, and John Thune sent an April 16 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 population survey for two years, in addition to added new questions, in order that the impacts of the Affordable Care Act be measured.

“Continuing to collect data using both the old and new survey questions,” the senators wrote, “will help ensure that you do not conflate a change in measurement with changes due to implementation of the new health care law.”

See St. George News report and the included full text of the senators’ letter here.

In response to St. George News report, the Census Bureau’s public affairs specialist, Virginia Hyer, submitted the following statement issued by Thompson in connection with the bureau’s new questionnaire:

The recent changes to the Current Population Survey’s questions related to health insurance coverage is the culmination of 14 years of research and two national tests in 2010 and 2013 clearly showing the revised questions provide more precise measures of health insurance through improved respondent recall.

This change was announced in September 2013 and implemented because the evidence showed that reengineering the questions provides demonstrably more accurate results. The Census Bureau only implements changes in survey methodology based on research, testing, and evidence presented for peer review.

The revised questions were implemented in the Current Population Survey beginning in February 2014 in time for data collection covering calendar year 2013, and thus will provide a more accurate baseline for assessments of changes in insurance coverage, including that of the Affordable Care Act.

Additional background provided by the Census Bureau

Based on more than a decade of comprehensive research to improve the measure of the Nation’s uninsured population and give the country better data, the U.S. Census Bureau redesigned the health insurance coverage questions for the Current Population Survey. The new method captures current health insurance coverage, in addition to coverage throughout the entire year. Results from two separate national test of the new questions in 2010 and 2013 showed that the new method captured health insurance coverage better than the old method. Specifically, it improved the respondent recall of when they were covered by health insurance and then works backwards through time about specific months of coverage. Based on the test results and 14 years of research, the new questions were included in this the February, March and April CPS (reflecting the collection of data for 2013). The CPS will act to provide an accurate baseline for 2013 to facilitate the assessment of the impact of the Affordable Care Act implemented in 2014.

Additionally, The American Community Survey, the largest household survey conducted by the Census Bureau, has collected health insurance coverage information since 2008 and provides additional measure of health insurance coverage at the nation, state and local levels on an annual basis. However, unlike the Current Population Survey, the ACS only asks respondents about a specific point in time.

Published Research provided by the Census Bureau

2013 Content Test

Changing the CPS Health Insurance Questions And The Implications On The Uninsured Rate: Redesign and Production Estimates

2010 Survey of Health Insurance and Program Participation

SHADAC Report: SHADAC Analysis of the Survey of Health Insurance and Program Participation

Previous Research Leading to the Redesigned Questionnaire

2009: Findings from a Pretest of a New Approach to Measuring Health Insurance in the Current Population Survey

2007: Measuring Health Insurance in the U.S.

2002: The Effects of Person-Level VS. Household-Level

Questionnaire Design on Survey Estimates and Data Quality

For a list of further research unavailable online, see the full Thompson statement here.

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Twitter: @JoyceKuzmanic

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • Maggie April 23, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Thanks Orrin but they want their own figures and they do not have to be accurate. Just so they give them the ammunition to say what they want. Don’t know why they are doing a census , unless of course it is to hire Acorn folks . They pretty much say whatever the voices in their heads tell them

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