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Posted at 02:32 PM ET, 06/20/2011

McKinsey releases methodology; firm concedes study not predictive

Under heavy pressure from Democrats and some reporters, McKinsey and Company has finally released the methodology of its study finding that many businesses are likely to drop insurance for employees (typo fixed) as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

There will be a lot to dig through here, but what’s immediately of interest is that in its statement, McKinsey repeatedly concedes that the study should not be seen as a predictor of future behavior. While McKinsey says it stands by the study’s methodology, the statement repeatedly stresses its lack of predictive value. This seems like a way of dealing with the fact that many other studies — unlike McKinsey — found that there would be minimal impact on employer-sponsored insurance:

We stand by the integrity and methodology of the survey.
The survey was not intended as a predictive economic analysis of the impact of the Affordable Care Act. Rather, it captured the attitudes of employers and provided an understanding of the factors that could influence decision making related to employee health benefits.
As such, our survey results are not comparable to the healthcare research and analysis conducted by others such as the Congressional Budget Office, RAND and the Urban Institute. Each of those studies employed economic modeling, not opinion surveys, and focused on the impact of healthcare reform on individuals, not employer attitudes.
Comparing the McKinsey survey to economic estimates, such as the CBO’s, is comparing apples to oranges. While the McKinsey Quarterly article about the survey cited CBO estimates, any comparison is not apt. We understand how the language in the article could lead the reader to think the research was a prediction, but it is not.

Note the claim that the study only established factors that “could” influence employer decision-making on benefits later.

Of course, “readers” aren’t the only ones who saw the McKinsey study as a “prediction.” It has been widely cited by opponents of the Affordable Care Act as just that. For instance, GOP Senator Ron Johnson and Republican economist Doug Holz-Eakin claimed recently:

A recent employer survey by McKinsey & Co. found that more than half of all American companies are likely to “dump” their workers into the government-run exchanges. If half of the 180 million workers who enjoy employer-provided care wind up in the exchanges, the annual cost of Obamacare would increase by $400 billion by 2021.

One wonders if this clarification from McKinsey will do anything to stop its study from being cited in this fashion.

In recent days it had become clear that questions about the question wording and sampling McKinsey used were not going away. So the company has now posted the questionnaire and survey results right here. Happy digging.

More soon.

UPDATE: As Jamison Foser points out, people might have thought the study was intended to be predictive because its initial headline was:

How US health care reform will affect employee benefits

Emphasis mine.

UPDATE II: I wonder how many of the news orgs that covered this study as a prediction will now cover the concession that it wasn’t intended to be a prediction.

By  |  02:32 PM ET, 06/20/2011

 
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