I am somewhat surprised to see Megan McArdle entering the lists of the conspiracy-minded. Here’s her reaction to the announcement that the Census Bureau is changing the questions it will ask in its regular survey so that we will never know confidently how many more people have received healthcare insurance as a consequence of the PPACA:
I’m speechless. Shocked. Stunned. Horrified. Befuddled. Aghast, appalled, thunderstruck, perplexed, baffled, bewildered and dumbfounded. It’s not that I am opposed to the changes: Everyone understands that the census reports probably overstate the true number of the uninsured, because the number they report is supposed to be “people who lacked insurance for the entire previous year,” but people tend to answer with their insurance status right now.
But why, dear God, oh, why, would you change it in the one year in the entire history of the republic that it is most important for policy makers, researchers and voters to be able to compare the number of uninsured to those in prior years? The answers would seem to range from “total incompetence on the part of every level of this administration” to something worse.
I think as good an explanation as any is that the good folks at the Census Bureau are merely justifying their jobs. If you never change anything in the surveys, why would you retain people who write surveys or figure out how to improve them? That the timing of the change is good for the administration is just a lagniappe.
Besides, as supporters of the PPACA have demonstrated time and again, they don’t really care about the practical impact of the legislation. It’s the idea of it they like.