When it comes to choosing health insurance, Millennials – many of whom are struggling to make ends meet – have different concerns than Baby Boomers, a more established generation with a lot more health issues.
“Millennials generally have far less disposable income, largely because of student loan debt, and are much more focused, as a priority, on cost,” says Paul Marden, CEO of United Healthcare of New Jersey. “That’s not to say Baby Boomers aren’t concerned about cost, but they are inclined to care more about coverage and the benefits they have as well as providers. Baby Boomers are older and have far more chronic conditions.”
Because of their general good health and lack of funds, Millennials are more likely to look at their premium as the No. 1 criteria in choosing a healthcare plan. According to a survey commissioned by the national non-profit Transamerica Center for Health Studies (TCHS), the percentage of uninsured Millennials is at an all-time low of 11 percent – down from 23 percent in 2013, the year before the Affordable Care Act went into effect. Seven in 10 surveyed say that cost is a very important factor when looking for healthcare, and nearly half say they had to cut corners on healthcare because of costs.
“Millennials are going to lean toward plans with lower monthly costs and higher deductibles – including localized networks and tiered plan designs,” says Ryan Petrizzi, vice president of consumer markets and product development for AmeriHealth New Jersey. “More than a specific doctor, Millennials want alternatives. They want to access care where and when they want it, and will consider not only a doctor, but an urgent care center, convenient care through pharmacies, or virtual medicine.”
Eduardo Lara, vice president of marketing and product development for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, says Millennials tend to have a stronger preference for his company’s lower-cost OMNIA products, which provide access to a broad network, but offer lower out-of-pocket costs with Tier 1 providers. He says this age group also values benefits such as gym reimbursement and discounts on health-related products.
“Millennials are generally healthier and more interested in health and wellness programs, which support their lifestyles and interests,” Lara says. “They generally do not seek healthcare as often as Boomers, but when they do, access and ease-of-use are paramount, as is lower cost.”
Baby Boomers, on the other hand, are more willing to select a higher priced-plan with more coverage if it has the providers they want to see.
They often have long-standing relationships with primary care physicians and specialists, and are willing to wait to see them. “Part of it is just the life stage and overall health status. The Baby Boomer’s biggest fear is a serious health problem,” Marden says. “A lot of Baby Boomers are covered by Medicare, yet it is a concern because a lot of them are on a fixed income. But in general, Medicare is going to provide less out-of-pocket costs than a Millennial might face in a high deductible cost plan.”
According to Lara, Baby Boomers tend to favor traditional broad network plans with out-of-network physician coverage as well as out-of-state coverage for those who travel or have children attending out-of-state colleges. In addition, because many Baby Boomers have started to suffer from various ailments – including cardiovascular and muscular/skeletal issues, as well as chronic conditions like hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes – they also put a premium on prescription coverage and available specialists. In the case of New Jersey residents, this means access to physicians in the New York or Philadelphia metropolitan areas as well.
“It’s important to note that many New Jersey hospitals and healthcare providers are among the best in the nation,” Lara says. “But there is still some cache in consumers’ minds in having access to these so-called name-brand hospitals in the big cities.”
In general, Baby Boomers tend to be more educated about healthcare than Millennials, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has only made it more difficult for the latter generation to shop and compare plans. Therefore, providers are devoting resources to their websites, boiling down the system to easy-to-navigate lists of what each plan offers.
“The key over-arching message we’ve gotten post ACA is that simplicity is critical. Millennials don’t want to go through pages and pages of info when looking for one thing in particular,” Petrizzi says. “In other industries, Millennials are used to getting their own answers and getting quick results. From our perspective, we are trying to make sure we engage with them the way they want to engage.”
AmeriHealth, for example, has a “Google-like” feature on its website so users can easily research participating doctors. In 2015, the company rolled out a telemedicine feature, where a subscriber can have a virtual visit with a health professional, which will be built into plans this year. AmeriHealth also offers online chat and a “text to renew” feature, which allows users to renew their plan from their cellphone.
United Healthcare is also upping its online content, unveiling virtual visits in early 2016, a “Help for Me” smartphone app, and linking its provider directory to Healthgrades, which includes patient reviews and average scores for that doctor in 10 areas. And Cigna – which in November received Consumer Reports’ highest marks for cost and quality tools – offers a number of online resources that tend to be especially valued by Millennials, the company says. Cigna.com offers a variety of cost and quality tools for helping people manage their health, including “Coach by Cigna,” as well as the myCigna app for finding doctors, tracking costs and other functions, which now features fingerprint access.
In addition, BCBS of NJ continues to improve online tools to provide a simpler, more streamlined member experience; recently updating its website and member portals to allow members to perform the most common functions in a “straightforward manner, on-the-go, on their mobile devices,” according to Lara. While noting that Baby Boomers are using these features with increasing regularity, Lara says most of this group’s interaction still tends to be via a laptop or desktop computer instead of through a mobile phone. “Baby Boomers are still more comfortable dealing with providers and health plans face-to-face or by speaking to a live person on the phone,” he says.
Marden sums it up, saying, “I think the Millennials are more likely to use online benefits, but that doesn’t mean to say other generations won’t use them too. We want everyone to be able to access care to the extent they want.”