Research about the fate of employer-sponsored health insurance under health reform has ignited a political firestorm.
Facing sharp criticism from Democrats and the White House, McKinsey & Co. defended its recent report that said 30 percent of employers will definitely or probably stop offering health insurance benefits after 2014, when insurance exchanges open.
Senator questions the McKinsey study
In a June 16 letter, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus asked the San Francisco-based consulting and research firm to publicly disclose its survey methodology.
"Determining your methodology is particularly important because the conclusions drawn in this study are counter to the findings of a number of other reputable studies on this topic for which the methodology was disclosed," Baucus wrote. "And your findings are counter to what actually happened in Massachusetts when similar policies took effect and employer-provided health insurance coverage actually increased."
Baucus asked 13 questions, including how McKinsey chose survey participants, whether the firm expected to benefit financially from the results, how questions were worded and what procedures were taken to verify the data.
McKinsey stands by opinion survey
In the report, McKinsey said the proportion of employers planning to stop offering health insurance increases to more than half among companies aware of health reform provisions. The findings, based on a survey of 1,300 employers across industries, contrasts sharply with projections by the Congressional Budget Office, which estimated 7 percent of employees would lose employer-sponsored coverage in 2014.
"The opinion survey was paid for entirely by McKinsey as part of its routine, proprietary research," McKinsey said on its website. "We stand by the integrity and methodology of the survey."
The company said the survey was not intended as a predictive economic analysis, but as a report about the attitudes of employers and factors that could influence decision making.
McKinsey said it commissioned Ipsos, the world's third largest market and opinion research company, to conduct the online survey based on a questionnaire developed by McKinsey. Respondents were drawn from a panel of 600,000 people maintained by Ipsos, not from McKinsey clients, the company said.
Baucus expressed disappointment.
"This report is filled with cherry-picked facts and slanted questions - it did not provide employers with enough information for them to make honest choices and fair evaluations," he said in a June 20 media statement. "Rather than correct the major deficiencies in their report, McKinsey has chosen to again stand by their faulty analysis and misguided conclusions."