Baucus demands methodology behind healthcare reform study

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. 

The study, released earlier this month, estimated that 30 percent or more of surveyed businesses would drop their employer-sponsored coverage because of the Democrats' law. Republicans pounced on the study because it suggests that the law violates President Obama's pledge that people who are happy with their coverage would get to keep it. 

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"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.

In a letter to global managing director Dominic Barton, Baucus requested "a full disclosure of the survey and its supporting materials, as well as answers to the following questions": 

• Who funded the survey? If McKinsey & Company sponsored the survey, what account did the funding come from? Who are your biggest clients? Do you expect McKinsey & Company to benefit financially from the results of this survey? 

• Have the results of the study been featured in any presentations, whether written or oral, to potential new clients? Have they been featured in presentations to existing clients considering additional consulting work for McKinsey? 

• What was your sampling design? 

• Were the results statistically significant? 

• What was the breakout of the survey responses by: industry, geography, employer size, the type of benefits the employer offers, and the percentage of low-wage workers at the company? 

• Were there any oversamples, and if there were, how did you account for this? What was the margin of sampling error? 

• How were participants chosen? What methods were used to recruit the participants? What percentage of participants were McKinsey clients? 

• Did you use eligibility criteria or screening procedures? What was the participation rate? How were interviewees selected? 

• What position did the interviewees hold within their respective companies? 

• How were the interviews conducted? What script was used to "educate respondents" before asking questions? Could the script used to "educate respondents," the wording of the questions, or the order of the questions have influenced the interviewees' responses? 

• What questions were asked, including their exact wording? What was the order of the questions? 

• What was your internal review process for questionnaire? Did any outside experts review the survey and its results? What procedures were taken to verify the data? 

• Deciding not to offer health benefits is a major business decision that will be made by more than one person, how did you account for this? 

"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."

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