On Monday, McKinsey & Company divulged how it conducted a recent study that found 30% or more of surveyed businesses will drop employer-sponsored health care because of the federal health reform law, the Wall Street Journal's "Health Blog" reports (Hobson, "Health Blog," Wall Street Journal, 6/20).
Of the 1,300 employers surveyed in the McKinsey study, 30% said they will "definitely" or "probably" stop providing employer-sponsored insurance plans after most of the major federal health reform law provisions are implemented in 2014. In addition, 45% to 50% said they will "definitely" or "probably" seek to change their health plans, including asking workers to contribute more to coverage or offering coverage only to certain employees.
The Congressional Budget Office previously estimated that only about 7% of employees who have employer-sponsored insurance will be required to obtain alternative coverage (California Healthline, 6/8).
Since releasing the study, McKinsey had refused requests from the Obama administration and congressional Democrats to divulge its methodology and other details.
McKinsey Reveals Study Details
According to McKinsey, study authors asked employers about their familiarity with nine provisions in the reform law. The researchers then provided information about those provisions and asked employers if they would maintain, change or eliminate coverage in 2014 ("Health Blog," Wall Street Journal, 6/20).
Ipsos, an opinion research firm, conducted the study with funding from McKinsey (Roy, "The Apothecary," Forbes, 6/20).
In a statement, McKinsey said it stands "by the integrity and methodology of the survey" ("Health Blog," Wall Street Journal, 6/20). However, it added that the survey "was not intended as a predictive economic analysis" of the effect of the reform law and that the company only sought to display "attitudes of employers and provide an understanding of the factors that could influence decision-making related to employee health benefits" (Cevallos, "Booster Shots," Los Angeles Times, 6/20).
Most health policy commentators said they were satisfied with McKinsey’s methodology. Kate Pickert of Time's "Swampland" wrote that the poll "was not a GOP-funded shoddy survey meant to gin up criticism" of the reform law. However, Pickert noted that McKinsey's assertion that the study was not meant to predict how employers will react to the law is a "rather absurd claim" (Pickert, "Swampland," Time, 6/20).
In addition, Paul Krugman of the New York Times' "The Conscience of a Liberal" wrote the study is "basically a poll -- which is a really bad way to assess how firms will make decisions about whether or not to maintain health coverage." He wrote, "Such a decision [requires] careful study of the numbers and consequences," adding, "A relatively causal answer to a poll probably isn't a very good predictor of that decision" (Krugman, "The Conscience of a Liberal," New York Times, 6/21).
Greg Sargent, writing in the Washington Post's "The Plum Line," countered McKinsey's claim that the survey was not intended to be predictive, noting that the study's original headline was, "How U.S. Health Care Reform Will Affect Employee Benefits" (Sargent, "The Plum Line," Washington Post, 6/20).
Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said he still believes the study is flawed. He responded to McKinsey's explanation by saying the poll "did not provide employers with enough information for them to make honest choices and fair evaluations" (Freudenheim, New York Times, 6/20).