Grassroots Commentary

Fun and Games at Census

Bill Franklin · Apr. 28, 2014

For over 25 years the Census Department has collected data on health insurance coverage among Americans. The dataset wasn’t without its flaws. For one thing, it over-reported the number of uninsured. That wasn’t all bad for political do-gooders. They often cited it as “proof” that Uncle Sam would do a better job of insuring folks than the private sector was doing. After all, look at the great job government does running the Post Office, Amtrak, and the national retirement plan called Social Security – all bankrupt were it not for the endless flow of cash from tax slaves.

The political winds shifted, however, with the passage of ObamaCare. Now that it has crowded out the private market for individual health insurance – the kind you buy yourself, not through an employer – O'care advocates want to show that Americans are stampeding to sign up for this exciting new government goodie. The last thing Obamakins want is a statistic that inflates the number of uninsured. They now want the uninsureds to be under-reported to substantiate their claim that over eight million people have become newly insured.

Well, we are in Kansas, Toto, where miracles still happen. Last week Census announced that it had re-jiggered the household insurance questions in its Current Population Survey, making it impossible to determine the effectiveness of ObamaCare.

Unfortunately the data generated from the old and new questions aren’t comparable, so there is no way to compare uninsured numbers before and after ObamaCare to determine if it has made a difference. Aw, shucks. I’m sure this was a coincidence … right before a mid-year election too. And it’s two years before a national election in which no incumbent is running for the presidency … unless Hillary’s eight years of living in the same building as the Oval Office is considered an incumbency. She thinks it is.

The White House shrugged its collective shoulders all big-eyed and innocent-like and said they had nothing to do with this … that the revised questions have been in launch tubes pending testing since the Bush administration. That may be true. But last time I checked, Census takes its orders from the President who could have said something like, “Hey, I came into office saying my administration would be the most transparent since Millard Fillmore’s and I don’t want any of you guys making a liar out of me. By order of the President, put the release date on hold until we get this ObamaCare thing behind us.” He coulda’ said that, but didn’t.

Or if there is anyone in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who knows that a standard deviation is not a sexual predator, that person could have told the Maximum Leader, “Hey, Prez, why don’t we run the old system and the new one in parallel until you leave office, that way no one could accuse you of preventing researchers from looking at decades of data that show what a superior program ObamaCare is.” Coulda’ said that too but didn’t.

It will be years before we have enough data from the new questions to smooth out anomalies. In the meantime, the data stream from the old questions has been broken making it impossible to use it to reconcile unusual trends in the new data stream. Anyone who works with new systems runs the old and new in parallel until there is overwhelming assurance before turning off the old system. That’s the way we do it in the real world. The political world apparently doesn’t need such assurances.

Last week’s impromptu appearance in the White House briefing room in which Obama announced the eight million sign up figure was overshadowed by another reality. Before he could beat his breast and let out the Tarzan yell, McKinsey and RAND released survey results that show only a third of those eight million were previously uninsured.

What’s a skeptic to think? The Obama administration’s proof that ObamaCare is working is hardly compelling. How many of the alleged eight million “newly” insured were uninsured previously? How many had insurance that was canceled as a result of ObamaCare? The administration won’t say. ObamaCare wouldn’t look so great, however, if six of the eight million people had lost their coverage because of ObamaCare restrictions on private insurance. Individual insurance cancelations make ObamaCare a Hobson’s choice. And it would mean that only two million previously uninsureds – the reason the country is being put through this upheaval – are the true “newly insureds.”

And of the eight million sign ups, how many have paid? Except maybe a root canal, people will sign up for most anything if they don’t have to pay for it. Here too, when asked, the Obamalites say they don’t have that data – yet.

How many of the eight million are young people – the blood donors to this scheme? They are needed to pay but not play. Without their healthy lives ObamaCare won’t work. Historically young people have gone without insurance – unless it was employer-based – because the cost exceeded the benefit if they paid for it. Everyone expects that they will opt to pay the penalty which is a lot cheaper than the insurance premium. Is this happening? Alas, Team Obama says this data point is missing also.

It seems to me that if Obama were trying to make an almost unimpeachable case for ObamaCare’s effectiveness he wouldn’t fiddle with Census data. He would go directly to private sector insurance executives and get substantiating data. Then he could have a Rose Garden announcement: “I’ve called the CEOs of the insurance companies providing individual and small group coverage, and they told me that the number of people with paid coverage last December before ObamaCare went into effect was ‘X’ million. As of the end of March, the first three months since ObamaCare went live on the exchanges, ‘Y’ million people have paid for coverage.” Why doesn’t he do something like that?

Or, instead of bobbing and weaving like a tired boxer in her congressional hearings, former HHS Secretary Sebelius, who under the ObamaCare law has every power including the divine right of kings, could have gotten the substantiating data. She could have required insurers selling on exchanges to report previous insurance status, payment status, and age bracket for the last three months of sign ups. She didn’t.

So, the Census decision to change the data it collects really muddies the water at a critical time in the launch of ObamaCare. The fact that the way the new questions are posed results in lower estimates of the uninsured rate isn’t helping the Bureau’s protestations that all of this is an innocent coincidence. But when the New York Times – no shill for conservative causes – disclosed that the Obama administration was consulted, that Kathleen Sebelius’ HHS and the White House Council of Economic Advisers wanted the new questions in the Current Population Survey, and that the White House Office of Management and Budget approved the CPS questionnaire, it’s hard to make the “innocent coincidence” argument go down.

When Obama moved into the Oval Office, he told the Commerce Secretary that Census would take its orders from the White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel. This preceded the 2010 decennial census, of course. At the time congressional conservatives sounded the alarm. Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT) is on record for saying, “[This move] takes something that is supposedly apolitical like the Census, and gives it to a guy who is infamously political.”

A letter to Obama from Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Patrick McHenry (R-NC) complained, “Requiring the Census director to report directly to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is a shamefully transparent attempt by your administration to politicize the Census Bureau and manipulate the 2010 Census.”

“The last thing the [2010] census needs is for any hard-bitten partisan (either a Karl Rove or a Rahm Emanuel) to manipulate these critical numbers,” University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato emailed to Fox News at the time. “Partisans have a natural impulse to tilt the playing field in their favor, and this has to be resisted.”

Voters coulda’ cared less. Obama walked on water in 2009.

But now, polling in the 40s, Team Obama apologists are working hard to tamp down cries of “foul” over this latest attempt to disguise the ObamaCare train wreck by calling critics of the Census CPS changes paranoid conspiracy promoters. But let’s not forget that Census was caught cooking the books just before the 2012 election when it was disclosed that an employee, Julius Buckmon, fabricated surveys which made the unemployment rate drop. And need I remind anyone of the IRS scandal?

This administration wins the prize for lawlessness. So believing these guys would go to any length to show that ObamaCare works requires neither a stretch nor imagination.

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