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McKinsey Madness

This is a weird one. The other day, the consulting company McKinsey released a study claiming that 30% of employers are planning to stop offering health coverage to their workers as a result of the Affordable Care Act. This surprising finding received a ton of press this week, particularly among conservatives.

Health care experts and supporters of the Affordable Care Act were somewhat shocked though–McKinsey’s results are vastly different from other studies of how the new law would affect employer-based coverage. For example, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that only 7% of workers will have to switch coverage to the new health exchanges. Studies by the Rand Corporation and the Urban Institute have found similar results.

Naturally, journalists, top Democrats, and even the White House asked McKinsey for more details about the survey, which remember, is contradicted by every other study on the subject. Basic stuff like:

  • What were the precise breakdowns of size, geographic location and industry for the businesses included in the survey? This would tell us if the sample was representative of American business as a whole.
  • How were the businesses chosen? An unbiased sampling method here is key.
  • What was the response rate? And how were businesses surveyed? If 13,000 businesses were contacted, but only 1,300 responded, such a 10% response rate could call into question the results. Also, there is, for example, a huge difference between surveys conducted in person, over the phone and over the Internet.
  • What exactly does this tidbit from the McKinsey Quarterly article about the survey mean?: “…our survey educated respondents about [employer sponsored insurance] implications for their companies and employees before they were asked about post-2014 strategies.”

So far, McKinsey has refused to answer any of these key questions about the methodology of its survey. If that sounds sketchy, sources within the company agree:

Something to think about the next time you see this survey cited on a conservative blog or Fox News.

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