Photo: Imani Chet Lytle
Health care & millennials
Millennials — The millennial generation — those born between 1982 and 2000 (currently ages 16 to 34) — now number an estimated 83.1 million. They have surpassed the Baby Boomer generation (ages 52 to 70), previously the largest, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The connected, tech-savvy millennial generation already is influencing every aspect of health care — from the cost structure to the way providers deliver services, including changes in the way doctors perform operations, the way manufacturers roll out devices to make do-it-your-self diagnosis easier and the way insurers court potential customers.
Obamacare: The Invicibility Factor
Many millennials are burdened with big student loans. That debt load — along with the feelings of invincibility that go along with being young — have made many millennials who are not covered by employer health plans reluctant to sign up for insurance plans offered through the federal Affordable Care Act — Obamacare.
Data from healthcare.gov indicate that people ages 18 to 34 made up only 28% of Obamacare enrollees as of March 2015. Experts say millennials are making choices based on a narrow cost-benefit analysis. Faced with choosing between fines and a smorgasbord of insurance choices, many are simply choosing to remain uninsured. “Millennials feel young and healthy and are skeptical about spending on health insurance,” says Ceci Connolly, managing director of Price water house Cooper’s Health Research Institute. “If they aren’t making a big salary, it’s hard to convince them to shell out several hundred dollars a month for health coverage they don’t think they are going to need. It’s a hard sell.”
Meanwhile, however, the financial structure of Obamacare makes enrolling young adults pivotal because this age group tends to have low anticipated medical costs; their premiums, while low, serve collectively to subsidize the health care costs of their elders.
When it comes to their health, millennials ...
- Take a broad, holistic approach. They are interested in broader notions of wellness than just traditional health care or "sick care."
"Serving these consumers will involve alternative medicine, promoting healthier lifestyles, exercise, diet and mindfulness. They want more than just 'what's my health insurance policy?' " says Ceci Connolly, managing director of the Health Research Institute.
- Are concerned about their appearance. More than half of millennials (55%) report their motivation for participating in corporate wellness programs is "to look good," according to a survey of 2,700 U.S. employees and their dependents by Aon Hewitt and the National Business Group on Health and The Futures Co.
- Like to use technology. More than other demographic groups, millennials are likely to use technology as a complement to their fitness routines, employing health apps and wearables to track their steps, monitor their heart rate or find the healthiest foods, according to Pew Research Center.
- Want results, fast. Many millennials "have fitness ADD. They get bored quickly and don't stick to anything. Knowing it took a year or more to put weight on, they want it off in 30 days. The immediacy they are used to with text messages has carried over to their health and fitness," says Matt Pack, owner of Primal Fit Miami, a personal training facility in Miami Shores.
71% - In a survey by HIT Consultant (a health care technology website), 71% of millennials said they would be interested in a doctor/provider giving them a mobile app on their smartphone or tablet for preventive care, to review health records and to schedule appointments. Embracing the trend, patients who are seen in the UF Health network at Gainesville or Jacksonville hospitals and UF Health Physicians clinics in Gainesville and Jacksonville receive access to a website and app that allows them to see their test results, request prescription refills, communicate with providers and manage appointments.
In studying health care trends, PNC Healthcare found millennials also make health care decisions by shopping online for doctors, using online diagnostic tools and researching treatment options on the internet. Nearly 50% of millennials use online reviews such as Yelp or Health grades when shopping for a health care provider, compared to 40% of Baby Boomers and 28% of seniors, PNC found.