Michigan’s Big Pandemic Consultant Involved In Opioid And Cuomo Nursing Home Issues
McKinsey & Company is everywhere
In February 2021, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel reached a $19.5 million settlement with the public relations and consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which her office had accused of fueling the opioid epidemic. In effect, the state’s top law enforcement officer said McKinsey played a role in the deaths of Michigan residents by helping drug companies promote their drugs, thereby profiting from the opioid epidemic.
But at the same time, other Michigan state officials were working closely with McKinsey to formulate their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
McKinsey & Company is a global management and public relations company with offices in 130 cities and 65 countries. It had 30,000 employees and $10.5 billion revenue in 2019. McKinsey's consulting services cover numerous industries such as healthcare, oil and gas, agriculture, real estate, technology, education and more.
McKinsey was also involved in the state of New York and then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s underreporting of COVID nursing home deaths.
In July 2020, the New York State Department of Health released a report that blamed nursing home deaths on nursing home staffers. Critics of the report said it was an attempt to absolve Cuomo of responsibility, according to ProPublica. McKinsey collaborated with the health department in producing the report.
ProPublica said in July 2020, “In the days since its release, the report has come under withering criticism, from some nursing home executives, medical experts, scientists, and elected officials in both New York and Washington. The critics have challenged the report’s conclusions as dubious speculation and accused Cuomo and [New York State Department of Health Commissioner Howard] Zucker of issuing a cynical document meant to insulate themselves from blame.”
Both Cuomo and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer were coming under fire then for undercounting nursing home deaths in their states. Both of their administrations used McKinsey to help craft COVID-19 pandemic responses.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy had recently filed a Freedom of Information Act request in Michigan, asking for records related to McKinsey’s involvement in setting COVID policy. Officials in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, in their initial response, demanded a payment of $70,000.
The June 16, 2021, FOIA request came after a report from the Michigan Auditor General’s Office noted that $1.8 million of the $3.2 million paid by the state to McKinsey could not be assigned to proper accounting categories due to a lack of documentation. In other words, there was no documentation for why state officials authorized $1.8 million worth of payments.
When the Mackinac Center asked the Michigan health department about the audit report, Lynn Sutfin, spokesperson for the state health department replied in an email, “Sounds like this is something MSP [Michigan State Police] might have information about, not MDHHS.”
After the Mackinac Center then filed a FOIA request with the department, state officials estimated there would be 14,149 documents related to the company. It would cost $70,000, they said, to collect them.
After the Mackinac Center narrowed the scope of its request on June 23, it paid the state $12,420 on July 15. Officials fulfilled the open records law request nearly 200 days later on Jan. 4, 2022.
According to state attorney general, McKinsey had earlier advised opioid manufacturers on how to maximize their profits in ways that made the epidemic worse. According to the allegation, McKinsey discussed steps such as targeting high-volume opioid prescribers and using specific messaging to get doctors to prescribe more OxyContin to more patients while bypassing pharmacy restrictions limiting high-dose prescriptions. The company was first implicated in the opioid epidemic in 2019, according to a report by The New York Times.
Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.