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How the Health Care Habits of Millennials Are Changing the Industry

Young people make fewer visits to their physician and trust alternative sources for medical information, shifts that are slowly changing the health care system.

Modern Medicine

Young people make fewer visits to their physician and trust alternative sources for medical information, shifts that are slowly changing the health care system.

Devin Ross, Middle Tennessee State University

As Republicans celebrate the passage of their recent health care bill, many millennials are worried what it may bring.

While experts anticipate costs for millennials purchasing health care on the individual market will go down, other changes made by the bill may make obtaining health insurance more difficult.  Of the eight million young adults who gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act, almost half of them got it through the ACA’s expanded Medicaid program for low-income Americans. The GOP’s plan gives states greater flexibility in how they spend federal funds, while reducing the amount of money that the federal government contributes, which could mean that fewer millennials will qualify for coverage.

Republicans want to do away with Obama’s mandate that everyone over twenty-six purchase health insurance — making it even more important to know how long you can stay on your parents’ policy — but they want to encourage people not to simply drop out and wait until an emergency before they re-enroll. The plan still requires insurers to accept customers with pre-existing conditions and imposes a penalty for not maintaining continuous coverage. If you stop being insured, you may have to pay three times the rate to re-enroll; this could disproportionately burden low-income millennials struggling to gain their financial foothold.

In response, many able-bodied and broke millennials, are forging an entirely new outlook on wellness, health and their relationship with medical professionals with these various health decisions.

Millennials and Medical Care: The Younger Generation's New Outlook on Wellness
Image via The Dotson Report

Healthier Lifestyle Choices

It may sound like a generational conceit, but millennials are just more health conscious than previous generations.  Part of the reason they don’t feel the need to see their physician as frequently is because they are more dedicated to living a healthy lifestyle. Whereas older generations placed more importance on going in for routine checkups, millennials prefer to take a more holistic approach. They see health and wellness as a lifestyle, not something to be assessed by a doctor every few months.

Just look around at all the nuanced health trends that seem to be so popular these days, such as gluten-free diets, kale and yoga pants. Aside from emergencies, millennials would prefer to stay in the gym and away from the doctor’s office.

Staying Informed

Part of the reason millennials are less likely to be found in the doctor’s office is because they are more informed. Rather than going to see their physician for information on a particular symptom or for routine checkups, millennials are more likely to search their symptoms on the internet and consult others who have experienced similar symptoms before rushing to the doctor.

An increased number of online resources have coincided with the rising cost of health care and the Affordable Care Act mandate, pushing many millennials to turn to the internet for non-urgent concerns.

Buyer Beware

Since millennials are less financially stable than older generations, they are more price-conscious and likelier to shop around for estimates before purchasing health insurance.  Millennials are also more likely to ask for discounts on medical care and more willing to switch doctors at the drop of a hat.

While older generations were content with paying higher premiums with low deductibles, millennials prefer high-deductible insurance plans or savings accounts.

Millennials and Medical Care: The Younger Generation's New Outlook on Wellness
Image via WordPress

The trouble is, now that many millennials coming out of college with mounds of debt are in dire financial straits, more graduates are opting out of health care entirely, or at least shuffling their feet, even in light of the Obama administration’s mandate.  In fact, 54 percent of millennials have delayed or altogether avoided medical treatment because of the financial strain that it presents.

Urgent Care Clinics

Millennials value speed and efficiency. Where older generations saw going to see the doctor as the first line of defense against health concerns, millennials see it as a last resort.  This attitude, coupled with the increase in popularity of retail-care clinics staffed by nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants, has helped keep the “drive-through generation” out of the doctor’s office.

According to the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, from 2006 to 2014, the number of retail clinics, such as CVS, Kroger and Walgreens, grew by nearly 900 percent, from 200 to 1,800. Though all generations are making this switch, millennials are leading the charge. According to a PNC Healthcare survey, 34 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 prefer retail clinics as opposed to a traditional doctor’s office—about double the rate of baby boomers and seniors.

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