Millennials Are Different When Choosing a Health Plan

Survey uncovers significant health plan engagement levels by worker generation.

Open enrollment for employer-sponsored health plans for 2018 is months away. But employers would be smart to prepare now by reading a recent report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute. The report found big generational differences among employees in how they choose their health plans. As it turns out, Millennials are different.

Millennials are more engaged in selecting their health plan and more concerned about their health care costs than other generations, according to the report. They also smoke too much.

The EBRI report is based on a survey of about 3,600 adults between the ages of 21 and 64 who had health insurance. Some 82 percent of the respondents were enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans. The rest obtained individual coverage directly from an insurance carrier or through a state or federal health insurance exchange.

EBRI teased the survey responses out by three generations: Baby Boomers, born from 1946 to 1965, who are now 52 to 71 years old; Generation Xers, born from 1966 to 1976, who are now 41 to 51 years old; and Millennials, born1977 to 2000, who are now 17 to 40 years old.

Baby Boomers were more satisfied with their health coverage than Generation Xers or Millennials. For example, 59 percent of Baby Boomers were satisfied with their health plan compared with 54 percent of Millennials and 53 percent of Generation Xers. Also, 74 percent of Baby Boomers were satisfied with their choice of doctors compared with 69 percent each for Generation Xers and Millennials.

Millennials were much pickier when selecting a health plan than their Baby Boomer or Generation X counterparts. For example:

  • 64 percent of Millennials visited a health plans’ website to learn about health plan choices compared with 53 percent for Generation Xers and 49 percent for Baby Boomers
  • 52 percent of Millennials talked to friends, family and colleagues to learn about health plan choices compared with 41 percent for Generation Xers and 37 percent for Baby Boomers
  • 43 percent of Millennials attended a meeting where health plan choices were explained compared with 32 percent for Baby Boomers and 30 percent for Generation Xers

Millennials also were much more cost-conscious than other generations when making their health care decisions. For example:

  • 57 percent of Millennials checked whether their health plan would cover a service or medication compared with 44 percent of Generation Xers and 43 percent of Baby Boomers
  • 49 percent of Millennials checked the quality rating of a hospital or doctor before receiving care compared with 31 percent of Generation Xers and 26 percent of Baby Boomers
  • 47 percent of Millennials asked for a generic prescription medication instead of a brand-name drug compared with 36 percent of Baby Boomers and 33 percent of Generation Xers

Perhaps Millennials are more concerned about costs because they anticipate using more health care services than the two other generations. Some 24 percent of the Millennials said they regularly smoke cigarettes compared with 13 percent of Baby Boomers and 10 percent of Generation Xers.