Political Animal


June 15, 2011 4:05 PM McKinsey insider: study has no predictive value

By Steve Benen

We’ve been keeping a close eye on the controversy surrounding McKinsey & Company and the firm’s report on the Affordable Care Act. To briefly recap, McKinsey published a highly dubious study showing nearly a third of American businesses will stop offering health coverage to their employees as a result of the new reform law.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is touting the results of the survey, and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) argued this week that the company’s credibility — McKinsey routinely has government contracts — means the report should get the benefit of the doubt.

At this point, congressional Republicans are the only people in Washington who believe this, and I’m including much of McKinsey’s staff.

Last week, several McKinsey insiders quietly acknowledged that the firm’s usual methodology was ignored when preparing this report, and sent out word they were troubled by its publication. Today, Jonathan Cohn moves the ball forward a bit more.

The report is at odds with predictions from more respected authorities, including the Congressional Budget Office, the Rand Corporation, and the Urban Institute. But McKinsey has declined to divulge more details about the report, despite requests from the White House and congressional Democrats, while company spokesmen have declined to answer questions from reporters, including yours truly. Why the silence? One possibility is that the conclusion can’t withstand scrutiny. […]

McKinsey employees are telling TNR similar things, sometimes in even blunter terms. “Trust me,” says one of the firm’s insiders. “The survey is not a good tool for prediction.”

Another senior firm employee defends the report’s “quality and rigor,” describing it as an “independent, professionally conducted, extensive survey.” But this employee also says that, notwithstanding the hype, the survey was not designed to produce the sort of reliable forecasts that CBO and other authorities make. “We are not making a point prediction or forecast about employer behavior after the implementation of health reform.”

Except, of course, that McKinsey’s report is being used exactly that way, and presented its findings to suggest it’s a warning about policy changes to come.

Keep in mind, McKinsey & Company still refuses to allow an independent analysis of the survey’s methodology, and we still don’t know what the questions were, who wrote them, or who paid for all of this.

The firm has cited proprietary concerns as the basis for the secrecy, but as Greg Sargent reminded us yesterday, McKinsey claims it did not conduct the survey for an outside client, which means there should be no barriers to subjecting the research to scrutiny.

And yet, McKinsey continues to refuse all requests for information. For a firm that’s never had a problem with the peer-review process in the past, this is just bizarre, and the story will continue to dog them until they allow an objective evaluation of the report.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • exlibra on June 15, 2011 4:18 PM:

    [...] McKinsey claims it did not conduct the survey for an outside client,[...]

    OK. If they didn't do it for an outside client, then they did it for an inside one. So... Who owns McKinsey or, at least, a chunk of it large enough to both get them to do the polling *and* to keep their traps shut?

    "ogarchi server". If you understand that "ogarchi" is Captcharese for "oligarchy", everything is fairly easy to comprehend, non?

  • zeitgeist on June 15, 2011 4:23 PM:

    given that Repbs are using it as a tool in policy making, issue a Congressional subpoena for the information and for their managing partner to appear before a subcommittee.

    what needs to happen at McKinsey is what happened at King & Spalding when they took the DOMA case: a critical mass of employees concerned about the firm's reputation needs to raise hell internally.

    (and in the spirit of exlibra, I think Captcha has been taken over by the Bachmann campaign: "erruid EPA")

  • c u n d gulag on June 15, 2011 4:25 PM:

    So, which are MORE accurate, McKinsey, internal or external polls.


    It's either an accurate poll, or not.

    Were you paid off?

    You either were or were not.

    I don't get this.

    Who gave you this information?
    Your cousin Vinnie, the hard-core Republican?

  • bjobotts on June 15, 2011 4:43 PM:

    Why should health ins. be offered by business which increases their operating expenses and decreases profits when a national single payer program like Medicare for all or Medicare-E would make it so much easier for businesses to operate in the USA while driving down medical ins costs for all of us by a system which operates with only a 3% overhead. Under such a program Dental could even be included. It's a win-win situation for all except the greedy ins. profiteers.

  • Doug on June 15, 2011 8:14 PM:

    "The firm has cited proprietary concerns as the basis for the secrecy...McKinsey claims it did not conduct the survey for an outside client,..." Steve Benen.

    If the firm didn't conduct the survey for an "outside" client, then it conducted the survey for a member of the firm. QED.
    Is McKinsey a privately-owned company? If so, then the survey was directly ordered by the owner(s) as noone else would have the authority to do so.
    If McKinsey is a publicly-owned company, and taking into account that the survey wasn't done for someone outside the company, one again is led to the conclusion that the survey was done at the instigation of a very senior official, a board member at least, AND with the agreement of the CEO.
    On top of that, the survey meets none of the standards McKinsey usually employs, yet upon its release, the results, which are at complete variance with several other reliable polls, are immediately used to support a partisan attack on the ACA. Nor will McKinsey allow an independent analysis of its methodology.
    In other words, McKinsey has now joined the ranks of Moody et al and are willing to sell their integrity and reputation to the highest bidder.

  • Bob M on June 16, 2011 9:45 AM:

    Wow, the Repubs are becoming Typhoid Marys contaminating all they touch. McKinsey had a good name and now it is supect.