The McKinsey Study Controversy: Max Baucus Jumps In

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Last week, I expressed some skepticism about a study produced by McKinsey consultants claiming that 30% of employers will stop offering health insurance to their workers as a result of health reform. This high percentage is an outlier and so I was interested in how exactly McKinsey came up with this figure. The company wouldn’t say. Since then, progressive bloggers and even the White House have been piling on, pressuring McKinsey to disclose its methodology. In the process, it has emerged that not everyone at McKinsey stands behind the study.

All of this pushback against the study was fairly predictable. The 30% figure could make for a terrific Republican talking point about how the Affordable Care Act will hurt Americans and disrupt the economy. Now, Max Baucus has joined the chorus of those pushing back against this potential GOP weapon against health reform. He sent a letter to McKinsey on Thursday, which he publicly released, calling on the company to answer more than 30 questions about its clients and the study itself. The company has already agreed to allow representatives to meet with staffers from the Senate Finance Committee, which Baucus chairs.

This raises the stakes somewhat. If McKinsey did a good job conducting the study, which appears to have been just a poll, then the results will resonate more, given all the controversy surrounding it. One thing is clear. Even if the documentation McKinsey released about its survey is full of holes and raises suspicion, it’s still a study conducted by a private company. The firm is under no obligation to disclose or release anything to anyone, including the Obama Administration. If its methodology was poor, don’t expect to see any more from McKinsey. Disclosing a bad study design will only make the company look partisan, or worse, incompetent.