President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act (White House photo)
McKinsey and Co., the consulting firm that released a study this week saying that nearly a third of all employers would stop offering their employees health benefits as a result of the Affordable Care Act, has
been received with skepticism
, name TIME's Swampland blog. The firm refused to provide Swampland's Kate Pickert with answers to some key questions about the methodology of the survey.
They've also refused a White House request for information about it. Greg Sargent:
I’m told that the White House, as well as top Democrats on key House and Senate committees, have privately contacted McKinsey to ask for details on the study’s methodology. According to an Obama administration official and a source on the House Ways and Means Committee, the company refused.
A spokesperson for McKinsey — which does proprietary research regularly — declined comment....
Now the White House and top Congressional Democrats are asking the company to release the baseline information we need to evaluate the study’s credibility and integrity. So this story could now get a good deal more interesting.
It has actually gotten a great deal more interesting with this reporting from TPM's Brian Beutler.
[M]ultiple sources both within and outside the firm tell TPM the survey was not conducted using McKinsey's typical, meticulous methodology. Indeed, the article the firm published was not intended to give the subject matter the same authoritative treatment as more thorough studies on the same topic -- particularly those conducted by numerous think tanks, and the Congressional Budget Office, which came to the opposite conclusion. And that's created a clamor within the firm at high levels to set the record straight.
"This particular survey wasn't designed in away that would allow it to be peer review published or cited academically," said one source familiar with the controversy.
All sources were granted anonymity, in order to be able to speak candidly about the controversy.
Reached for comment today, a McKinsey spokesperson once again declined to release the survey materials, or to comment beyond saying that, for the moment, McKinsey will let the study speak for itself. However, McKinsey notes that the survey is only one indicator of employers' potential future actions -- that the conclusions remain uncertain and employers' future decisions will ultimately depend on numerous variables. The three authors of the report were not immediately available for comment.
Another keyed-in source says McKinsey is unlikely to release the survey materials because "it would be damaging to them."
Both sources disagree with the results of the survey, which was devised by consultants without particular expertise in this area, not by the firm's health experts.
So many flags were raised by this report because it is such an outlier among think tank studies done on the issue to date. Its findings also contradict real-world experience. Employers in Massachusetts, where health insurance using essentially the same structure as the ACA has been in place for five years, have not stopped offering benefits.
But the major flag raised is over this sentence from the firm's release about the study: "…our survey educated respondents about [employer sponsored insurance] implications for their companies and employees before they were asked about post-2014 strategies." Knowing exactly what the "education" of survey respondents included is pretty critical to understanding the results.
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