Political Animal


June 16, 2011 4:20 PM The McKinsey controversy keeps percolating

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, but the company refuses to disclose its methodology or subject its findings to any scrutiny.

One of the main arguments from the White House has been that the McKinsey findings are at odds with all available evidence, including independent research from the Congressional Budget Office, the Rand Corporation, and the Urban Institute. Today, Greg Sargent advances this quite a bit with an amusing revelation.

The White House has pointed to various studies finding the opposite of what McKinsey’s study found in order to make the case that it’s an outlier that should not be taken seriously. But Sam Wainwright ferrets out a gem: It turns out that one of those studies was written by someone who is now a chief analyst of health reform at … McKinsey.

Yes, it turns out that some of the evidence to disprove the controversial report from McKinsey & Company was published by a McKinsey & Company analyst.*

How unfortunate for them.

What’s more, as interest in this story slowly but surely spreads, demands that the firm come clean are getting louder. One powerful senator in particular wants answers.

The pressure on McKinsey to explain its latest study critical of the healthcare reform law grew substantially Thursday after Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) demanded answers ahead of a meeting with the consulting firm. […]

“Honest public discourse requires a standard level of transparency — one McKinsey simply has not met,” Baucus said in a statement accompanying his demand for McKinsey to release its survey methodology. “The conclusions McKinsey reached differ sharply from results of other reputable, transparent research on the subject. McKinsey’s findings also counter what actually happened in Massachusetts when similar policies increased employer-sponsored health insurance. We all want the most accurate information and the ability to evaluate its integrity, which is why McKinsey should answer these basic questions.”

McKinsey has agreed to meet with the committee to explain its report.

That should be an interesting discussion, though it’s not yet clear if the meeting will be public. I rather doubt that it will.

In the meantime, Baucus’ office has already written a letter to McKinsey’s global managing director with a series of questions that the senator would like to see answered. Among them: who funded the study, will McKinsey benefit financially from the results, how was the survey was structured, how were participants chosen, how were the interviews conducted, how were respondents “educated,” what was the exact wording of the questions, what was the internal review process like, and many others.

“Providing the public and policymakers with the necessary information to evaluate the integrity of publicly released survey conclusions,” the letter says, “is essential to honest public discourse.”

And as I go to publish this, it also appears that three House committees are pressing McKinsey for the same information. As Greg noted, “It isn’t every day that the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and three House committees simultaneously demand that a company cough up the internals of a survey like this one.”

I wonder how much more it will take before major news outlets take more of an interest in this.

* fixed

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.


Post a comment
  • SteveT on June 16, 2011 4:29 PM:

    I wonder how much more it will take before major news outlets take more of an interest in this.

    It will take until the story can be used to advance the Republican's agenda.

  • Chris on June 16, 2011 4:33 PM:

    "I wonder how much more it will take before major news outlets take more of an interest in this."

    Sadly, they won't.

  • Han's Solo on June 16, 2011 4:37 PM:

    "I wonder how much more it will take before major news outlets take more of an interest in this."

    You could always forward it to the big MSM outlets. Of course if you wanted them to pay attention you'd have to fill out the email subject line, "BREAKING - Exclusive photos of Anthony Weiner's junk!!!"

  • jdb on June 16, 2011 4:41 PM:

    Additional evidence that the GOP are using this study in their attacks on Health Care Reform: Illinois Congressman Roskam cited the report during his tele-town hall last night, in defense of his continuing opposition to reform.

  • kindness on June 16, 2011 4:54 PM:

    Unless it results in McKinsey releasing pics of a Democrat in their birthday suit it will NEVER get picked up by the MSM. Let's be real about what they care about. They have been very straightforward. Dirt on a Democrat - "Great run it now!" Dirt on Republicans - "What did you say about that Democrat again?"

  • exlibra on June 16, 2011 4:58 PM:

    [...] Baucus’ office has already written a letter to McKinsey’s global managing director with a series of questions [...]

    ...of which one was somewhat redundant. They (McKinsey) have already admitted that the poll was *not* undertaken for an outside client. Ergo, it was asked for someone internally. And it had to be someone high on the totem pole to get the machine cranking. So... who owns McKinsey? Let's start from the top.

    As someone (zeitgeist?) mentioned on another thread, Captcha seems stuck on Weiner. This time, it's offering excuses: "etranc activities". I remain unconvinced; I don't give a flying duck whether or not the twit Tweetered and Tweeted while in a trance.

  • karen marie on June 16, 2011 5:11 PM:

    "Weiner! Weiner! Weiner!"

    It never fails to amaze me how TV "journalists" claim they can't cover important stories thoroughly because of the "24 hour news cycle," yet, for example, CNN can do almost 200 -- that's right, TWO HUNDRED -- stories on Congressman Weiner's wiener.

    No, kids, there will be no TV news programs covering McKinsey's questionable report because they have to keep the airwaves clear in case Weiner's wiener pops up again.

  • j on June 16, 2011 6:38 PM:

    Repubs sure are strange - Issa, a man with no ethics at all is leading the ethics committee'
    Peter King, once IRA terrorist fundraiser is leading an investigation into Moslems who may or may not be terrorists.
    Michelle Bachman, a woman of no intelligence is on the intelligence committee.
    Funny old world isn't it?

  • Jon on June 16, 2011 6:41 PM:

    It's about time. The public discourse is polluted beyond belief by a continuous stream of junk "studies" hiding base partisan designs under the thinnest veil of empiricism.

    The media never, never questions the methodology, data, or conclusions of such reports. Somehow, they have concluded that it's not their job to know anything about what they are reporting. They just pass them on, often literally just reprinting the press release.

    In a journalism professional, this is called being "unbiased" and "even handed." In the general public, this is known as being "lazy," "gullible," or just plain "stupid."

  • b on June 16, 2011 8:02 PM:

    I believe McKinsey is owned by its partners, similar to a law firm. I'm a bit suprised that they have let this continue to go on and haven't come clean and begged for foregiveness. They have a good reputation as a top notch consultant and that reputation is taking a beating over this.

  • jjm on June 17, 2011 5:01 AM:

    Read the history of the mistakes McKinsey has made (it brought down Enron, for example) and several national governments. Indeed, they should be considered really damaged goods for their actual inability to analyze certain real world situations.

  • numi on June 17, 2011 1:43 PM:

    Obviously, McKinsey got caught with their pants down. They got paid to conduct a bogus survey for unknown clients and issued it as a complete product. Disclaimers followed. Never mind. Hope it was worth it.

  • John Dausend on June 19, 2011 11:24 AM:

    Why haven’t Articles like this been Written Properly on this Particular subject matter yet ???

    Re: John Boehner ( Medicare / Healthcare Issue Debating ) Listen to this You won’t Believe It as we sometime have to go back and Recall History !!! Flip-Flop ???

    John Boehner’s Bloody Sunday ( March 21, 2010 ) Speech
    This Speech was Less then 15 Months Ago !!!
    Famous “Hell No !!!” / “Hell No, You Can’t !!!” Speech

    Words per Speaker John Boehner ( March 21, 2010 ):
    .....“Can you go Home and tell your (Sr.) Senior Citizens that these cuts in Medicare will Not Limit their Access to Doctors or further Weaken the program instead of Strengthening It.....(Pause).....No You Can Not !!!”.....

    It is time to reflect upon the History recently when John Boehner was not yet the Speaker of the House but instead was the House Minority Leader for the Republican Party.

    Topic: Prior -- Healthcare Legislation Debate while Boehner was Minority Leader
    & More Important Medicare specifically being Discussed !!!

    You must Listen to John Boehner from time 2:26 especially until 2:48 on this Video !!! But continue onto at minimum to 4:00 if you would, please. Listen to Other Parts additionally as well to Recall this Historical Speech because there are many good parts !!!
    [ The Entire Speech is Worth Watching ]
    Historic Speech by John Boehner - Bloody Sunday, 2010

    Words per Speaker John Boehner ( March 21, 2010 ):
    .....“Can you go Home and tell your (Sr.) Senior Citizens that these cuts in Medicare will Not Limit their Access to Doctors or further Weaken the program instead of Strengthening It.....(Pause).....No You Can Not !!!”.....

    Note: You will hear much Sarcastic Statements, Below:

    Personal Comments # 1:
Strengthening It ??? Strengthening Medicare ??? I thought I heard John Boenher in this Speech discuss the Strengthening of the Program we All call and know as “Medicare” !!!

    [ Lets Not forget the current Republican party Loss in New York’s District # 26, John Boehner had words on that Recently, Also !!! ]

    Personal Comments # 2:
    But John Boehner on March 21, 2010 states clearly that .....“Can you go Home and tell your (Sr.) Senior citizens that these cuts in Medicare will Not Limit their Access to Doctors or further Weaken the program instead of Strengthening It.....(Pause).....No You Can Not !!!”.....

    [ Question: Are We Strengthening or Weakening Healthcare to Senior Citizens and other Americans with the New Republican Healthcare proposals ??? ]

    John Boehner in this speech talks about Not having Cuts in Medicare......He also mentions the Words [ Not Limit (Re: Doctors) ]......He also mentions to the sense of Not to Weaken the Program. What Program ??? Medicare, Right ??? He Again talks about Strengthening It, Vehemently !!! Again John Boehner’s words......”No You Can Not !!!”

    I thought the New Republican plan has to do with cuts to Healthcare/Medicare/Medicaid for the purpose of Savings ??? Big question always is Who gets the so called Savings ???

    Personal Comments # 3:
    Hold on a Minute !!! Isn’t this the Program (Medicare) the program which Rep. Paul Ryan and other Members including the current Speaker of the House John Boehner have the desires to End/Kill and Not Strengthen or Re-Structure ???

    Personal Comments # 4:
    Am I Right or am I Wrong in my Recollection on what is being Discussed currently by the Republican Party which includes John Boehner (vs.) what was previously discussed that day ( March 21, 2010 ) by John Boehner ???

    Personal Comments # 5:
    So Now the Need to Kill Medicare ??? When did the Tables on Medicare have to suddenly and necessarily be Turned ??? This Speech by John Boehner was on March 21, 2010. It is Less then 15 months Ago !!! Is there No Curiousness on this Matter ???

    Personal Comments # 6:
    The.....No You Can Not !!!”.....part of that Speech, again

    (Vs.) Contrast:
    [ Well isn’t Boehner telling his Republican constituents Now how to Align themselves forward on the Position of Killing Medicare ??? It sounded on March 21, 2010 that he was ( chess playing ) his constituents differently then in 2011 ???

    Personal Comments # 7:
    Am I well Tuned into this Non-Sense ( or ) am I the One with the Disconnect concerning the Current Need to Kill Medicare and other Health programs by the Republican Party ???

    Facts to Note: Rep. Paul Ryan has been in the U.S. House of Representatives since January 3, 1999 and John Boehner has been in the U.S. House of Representatives 8 Years Longer to that day ( On January 3, 1991 )

    Personal Comments # 8:
    And Now we have the Analysis from the Republican Party that they must go after Medicare and even Later I am sure Medicaid after having the Introduction of the Affordable Healthcare Act being passed into Law ???

    Personal Comments # 9:
    Is Wall-Street / Lobbyist Involved in this Kill Medicare & Kill Medicaid scheme ??? Or are things Truly Legit ??? We already know that the Republican party has the Absolute desire to Kill the Affordable Healthcare Act !!!

    Personal Comments # 10:
    It sounds like to me that questions need to be posed to John Boehner, Rep. Paul Ryan, Rep. Eric Cantor, Senator Mitch Mc.Connell, and other Members, I do Believe !!!

    Maybe media News Sources should contact their Offices ???

    Is this also another Conservative coordinated effort/collaboration similar to the efforts made against Unions and Collective bargaining, Recently ???

    Same Speech on March 21, 2010:
    [ Less then 15 Months Ago !!! ]
    ( Shorter Clip on same Words as Per ABC News )
    [ It does contain a Commercial, this Video ]

  • phil on June 20, 2011 1:08 PM:

    Max Baucus is a socialist, and his Obamacare program is pure socialism. If you want to see a hilarious blog and a great post, check this one out:
    The blog focuses on Max Baucus and his failure as a senator.