The week opened with this scary bit of front-page news, linking it directly to Obama’s health overhaul. I counted 173 accounts of the study on Google. I have to say that many early accounts seemed to paraphrase a press release, without critical review. I was immediately skeptical, thinking that the report by McKinsey & Co. might have been thrown out as a trial balloon, to see whether it would float. It sure sounded scary. The study’s second bullet point was even scarier: “Among employers with a high awareness of reform, the proportion increases to more than 50 percent, and upward of 60 percent will pursue some alternative to traditional ESI.”
I downloaded the study but I didn’t have time to review it in depth. If there are reasons I am grateful to Anthony Weiner, it is that interest in his behavior this week eclipsed the study, which, it turns out, it pretty questionable. Also, he has been a strong advocate for progressive health reform.
I have to say that the claim seemed counterintuitive to me at the gate, as a ploy by the Republicans to build momentum against health reform.
Dissecting the McKinsey Study
It turns out that Swampland’s Kate Pickert went right to McKinsey, trying to better understand the study. Pickert was unable to get McKinsey to respond to many important questions about methodology that would help determine the integrity of the study, including how the script used to educate employers about impacts of the Accountable Care Act, study sampling and bias, and whether the respondents were primed to say they would keep or drop coverage. She concludes that there are reasons for healthy skepticism.
Nancy-Ann DeParle on the White House blog also challenged the study, stating that “it contradicts at least three others predicting that reform will have a negligible effect on employer-sponsored health insurance.” DeParle discusses studies by the Rand Corporation, the Urban Institute, and Mercer, holding that “the McKinsey study is an outlier.” It’s worth a read.
And it is really worthwhile not to take everything you read at face value. It is work, but you have to consider who is issuing a study, whether special interests are at play, and just how transparent are the study methods.
I have to say I was unimpressed by this effort to scare Americans about health reform. What about you?