By Kim Bellard, June 24, 2016
If we believe conventional wisdom about them, they like to live with their parents, at least until they can move into their urban-center condo. They hate to drive. They're maddening in the workplace, demanding lots of frills and constant praise yet returning little loyalty. They're hyperconnected through their various digital devices. And, when they deign to think about health care, which isn't often, they want all digital, all the time.
There's some truth to the conventional wisdom, but not as much as you'd think. A new study from Credit Karma flatly asserts that "everything you thought you knew about Millennials may be wrong," finding that they still have aspirations to much of the same "American Dream" as previous generations.
The hyperconnected part is certainly true. Millennials are much more likely to have a smartphone, and -- jawdroppingly -- on an average day they interact with it much more than with anyone else, even their parents or significant other.
Things get really interesting when it comes to health. Millennials are often viewed as not very interested in health care, but it is the second most important social issue for them, right after education and ahead of the economy.
A deep dive on millennials and health care by the Transamerica Center for Health Studies had some results that also don't necessarily fit the stereotypes. Taking care of their health was tied with getting/keeping a job as their top priority. 70% have been to a doctor's office within the last year, although for minor issues they're more likely to head to urgent care/a retail clinic. When it comes to getting health information, this supremely digital generation still relies most heavily on health care professionals and friends/family (especially their mothers!).
There has been a dramatic drop in being uninsured -- 11% versus 23% as recently as 2013 -- but millennials don't like much about health insurance. They feel much more informed about their health and how to improve it than they do about how to find health care services or their health insurance options.
Perhaps that is why two-thirds have never comparison shopped for health insurance.
Lastly, TCHS found that millennials rate affordability as the most important aspect of the health care system, but many don't find it affordable. About 20% can't afford routine health expenses, even though millennials' median health expenses are under $100 per month. Nearly half have skipped care to reduce their expenses. Similarly, most millennials view monthly premiums over $200 as unaffordable.
If there is a key difference with millennials' health care, it may be in their emphasis on technology. A report from Salesforce.com found that 76% of millennials valued online reviews in choosing a doctor, and 73% want doctors to use mobile devices during appointments to share information. 60% are interested in telehealth options in lieu of office visits.
It is perhaps no wonder millennials are turning to technology when it comes to their health. They highly value face time with their doctor, but they may not be getting it. According to the Salesforce report, 40% of millennials don't think their primary care doctor would recognize them on the street.
Many of us might suspect the same thing, and that should trouble us all.
When it comes to health care, as with many other aspects of life, it may be less that millennials are different in what they want as it is that they're quicker to adopt newer options for getting it. The rest of us should learn from that, not shake our heads at it.