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McKinsey Reveals and Defends Its Controversial Health Reform Survey

Monday, July 11, 2011

McKinsey Reveals and Defends Its Controversial Health Reform Survey

As health care reform continues to take the media forefront, one contentious addition to the debate is the recent McKinsey report on implications of the health-care overhaul law. Titled, "How U.S. Health Care Reform Will Affect Employee Benefits," McKinsey’s survey of 1,300 employers gauged the effect the Affordable Care Act (ACA) might have on health care benefits. The report by McKinsey & Co., a world-renowned consulting firm, found that 30 percent of employers are likely to stop offering workers health insurance after the bulk of the Obama administration's health overhaul (PL 111-148PL 111-152) takes effect in 2014.

However, very quickly after the findings were released, concerns surrounding their accuracy and integrity arose. These findings differed drastically from those of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the Rand Institute, both of which found a much smaller impact on employer-sponsored insurance. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that about six to seven million people who otherwise would have had access to coverage through their job won't because of the reform, which is 4 percent of the roughly 160 million people projected to have employment-based coverage in 2019.

Even when faced with questions concerning the discrepancy between its report and other studies, McKinsey initially refused to disclose the methodology behind the study for thirteen days after its release.

Republicans were quick to cite the McKinsey study in their opposition to the ACA. After outrage from the White House and Congressional Democrats, including a letter from Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) , McKinsey broke its silence on the report.

On June 20, McKinsey released its questionnaire and methodology for its report, “stand[ing] by the integrity and methodology of the survey.” They acknowledged that the survey "was not intended as a predictive economic analysis of the impact of the Affordable Care Act,” but instead to “capture the attitudes of employers and provided an understanding of the factors that could influence decision-making related to employee health benefits."

A particular criticism of McKinsey's study was that only 51 percent of respondents had primary decision-making authority concerning health benefits. Also, in questions about knowledge of the reform bill, between 40 and 60 percent of respondents said they “had heard but didn't know much” or “were not familiar at all” with key parts of the legislation. Even with the release of the methodology and survey questions, little is known about the sample, including the demographics of the businesses and if the sample was of key decision makers regarding health benefits.

For more information about health care reform, visit the White House’s Affordable Care Act website and the Department of Health and Human Services website