Millennials Seek Solid, Employer-Provided Healthcare

As millennials struggle for reliable healthcare coverage, employer-provided insurance is a critical piece of the puzzle

Millennials make up the largest portion of the U.S. population and are now the largest generation in the U.S. labor force as well. As this key demographic grows in influence, millennial attitudes toward work, healthcare, and finances are reshaping the traditional state of workplace culture and benefits.

According to a new Anthem, Inc. survey, 35% of millennials (ages 18-34) have turned down a job either fully or partially because they were dissatisfied with insurance offerings. While many employers have begun to focus on trendy wellness benefits to attract or retain younger employees, the survey shows that employers may be missing important opportunities to engage money-conscious millennials who value both financial and personal wellness.

So what are millennials looking for? How can employers engage this critical demographic, and how can employers best meet their healthcare needs?

Read on for a roundup of recent research about millennials’ attitudes toward healthcare, their position in the labor force, and ways that employers and other healthcare stakeholders can engage this key demographic.

  1. Millennials view health benefits differently than Baby Boomers and Generation X. According to the newly released Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) study on consumer engagement in healthcare and health plan choices, millennials’ attitudes toward healthcare differ from other generational cohorts in several key ways:
    • Millennials are more satisfied than other cohorts with financial aspects of their health plans, including out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs or medical services.
    • Millennials are more satisfied than Gen X and Baby Boomers with enrollment. They are more likely to be satisfied with the ease of selecting a health plan, the information available when choosing a plan, and the number and availability of plans from which to choose.
    • Millennials value financial aspects of coverage more highly at enrollment, including lower premiums and the ability to establish health savings accounts.
    • Millennials value non-financial aspects of coverage, such as ease of access or prescription drug coverage, slightly less than other generational cohorts.
    • Millennials are more engaged in choosing their health plan and in making healthcare decisions.
    • Millennials are the most likely to report that they engage in regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight, but are also more likely to smoke.
  2. Lack of information and cost are key barriers to health insurance for many millennials. A 2016 survey conducted by the Transamerica Center for Health Studies examined millennials’ experience with health insurance and their plans for health and wellness. According to the study findings:
    • Despite ACA mandates and deadlines, uninsured millennials are most likely to say that they did not obtain coverage because they did not know how to apply.
    • For those who do not plan to purchase insurance in the future, affordability is the primary reason.
    • Over a third of millennials “say they are not at all or not very informed about the health insurance options available to them.”
    • 54% of uninsured millennials say they “feel it is difficult or very difficult to make decisions regarding which health insurance plan to choose,” compared to 39% of insured millennials.
    • Affordability is most important to millennials when making decisions about healthcare. Nearly half of millennials struggle to pay for healthcare, and nearly half have avoided, delayed, or stopped care due to cost.
  3. Millennials view health insurance benefits as essential. According to the American Journal of Pharmacy Benefits, a survey by the Benenson Strategy Group polled 1,002 millennials about healthcare and found that:
    • 85% of respondents reported that health insurance is “absolutely essential,” ranking above internet, data plans, retirement contributions, online streaming or TV services, entertainment, gym memberships, and dining out.
    • More than half of participants said they would prefer more comprehensive health benefits to a 10% pay raise.
    • The majority of millennials ranked insurance as the most important employee benefit.
  4. Onsite health clinics are an increasingly sought-after benefit. As Forbes reports, “[m]ore and more millennials are seeking out companies that have an onsite health clinic.” Affordability is an important factor, as millennials continue to struggle with high healthcare costs and tight budgets. Convenience and efficiency are also highly valued, though, and on-site clinics that allow employees to manage appointments quickly, without losing work time, are beneficial to employees and employers alike.
  5. Voluntary benefits appeal to debt-averse millennials. According to Aflac, millennials seek to avoid debt; many steer clear of credit cards, investments, and 401(k) plans. However, millennials are more likely than any other generation to invest in insurance coverage for their belongings, and they are also likely to purchase voluntary insurance offered through their employers. (The Aflac WorkForces Report explores these findings in more detail.) Corporate Synergies explains that voluntary benefits meet many of the needs and preferences of millennials in the workplace, but a knowledge gap prevents millennial workers from understanding the value of voluntary benefits offered by their employers. Education and communications programs can engage millennials and potentially increase cost savings and employee retention. Popular voluntary benefits products include short-term disability, life, accident, critical illness, and long-term care policies.

Employers, payers, and all other healthcare stakeholders must be aware of generational shifts and cultural sea changes surrounding healthcare. While legislative actions and cost-saving measures certainly inform much of the healthcare landscape, consumers increasingly shape and define the parameters of critical aspects of the healthcare market, such as value-based care and consumer-driven initiatives.  Consumer and employee choices and preferences also influence (and are greatly influenced by) employer-offered healthcare benefits.

Millennials have replaced Baby Boomers as the new majority force in the workplace, and their approaches to fiscal planning and healthcare will have wide-reaching implications in policy for years to come. Back-to-basics, employer-funded healthcare benefits are central to attracting, retaining, and maximizing the potential of this key demographic.