Conservatives Defend McKinsey Against Democratic ‘Bullying,’ ‘Enemies Lists’

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If the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. comes clean about the methodology behind its recent report that claims “Obamacare” will significantly undermine worker’s health benefits, they’ll have plenty of allies — among conservatives.

A new line is gaining traction among health care reform opponents. They claim that McKinsey is entitled as a private company to keep its survey materials private — and if they cave, they’ll unleash a wave of administration bullying and antagonism against businesses on a White House enemies list.

“In economic terms this is the equivalent of a journalist being told to reveal their source,” said Fox Business host Stuart Varney on Fox News Friday. “[I]f congress finds out which companies are indeed going to leave ObamaCare, then they will be subject — maybe — to all kind of pressure. Intimidation. Bullying. They may be on an enemy’s list. There may be retribution against those companies.”

In response to this, the anchor noted, “If you are an American insurance company and you say to McKinsey, ‘You know, we are curious how this is going to affect us and how it’s going to affect the people that we cover and the companies we’re involved in, we would like to hire you privately to do a study to give us information on that. I think most folk would say that’s a closed circle. That’s a business arrangement. You give us the research and we’ll pay you for it.”

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There’s an awful lot wrong here. For starters, Democrats are asking McKinsey to provide methodology without revealing the identity of the firms the group polled in its study. On substance, any company that decides to drop its employer-sponsored insurance after 2014 won’t be “leaving” ObamaCare, as Varney claims. Rather, they will in many cases pay penalties for dropping coverage, and their employees will be put into exchanges where the government will subsidize their premiums — all part of ObamaCare. And, contra Fox, the McKinsey study wasn’t part of a private consulting arrangement between the firm and its clients — it was conducted independently, not for any client, and the question is whether their methodology is up to normal public polling standards.

This, Forbes’ Avik Roy says, is “the classic Max Baucus playbook–harass those who he disagrees with, in an attempt to intimidate them into more favorable coverage.

Baucus, and other top Democrats last week ratcheted up public pressure on the group to explain its findings.

Democratic sources expect McKinsey will ultimately budge and release its methodology. The results will either hold up or fold based on the strength of that methodology. Either way, some folks will have to eat their words.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM’s senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he’s led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com

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