Millennials bring changes in health care system

Millennials bring changes in health care system
March 01 01:00 2016

Millennials, those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, represent one-quarter (25 percent) of the U.S. population, more than 75 million individuals. Millennials are figuratively and literally “coming of age” and, in the process, reshaping the marketplace and society. Let’s look at how the millennial generation is forcing the health care system to reframe some of its basic tenets.

Doctor/patient relationship

For my generation (the baby boomers), a personal relationship with our physician was important. If I get sick, I want Dr. Tony Ross, my Vanderbilt primary care physician, to know who I am, my personal medical history and my family members. I do not want to be an anonymous patient. According to a recent article in the International Business Times, millennials have a different view. They see themselves as consumers buying health care services, much as they buy from Amazon and Uber. Millennials do not see themselves as having a dedicated doctor and believe that standard checkups and consultations should be done as easily and affordably as possible. These trends are evidenced in the rise of urgent care centers and the surge of retail clinics in pharmacies, such as CVS, Walmart and Walgreens. As evidence, national studies have found that millennials use retail clinics at double the rate of baby Boomers.

Price of care

To baby boomers, at least those of us who are not yet on Medicare, our insurance came from our employer and price was essentially our co-pay and deductible. In contrast, millennials are less likely to have employer-sponsored health insurance, and thus, they are considerably more price conscious. According to a 2015 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, not only are millennials fearless in asking the price of care (in fact, they expect it to be posted on the provider’s website), they are much more likely to negotiate a discount. Specifically, national studies have shown that 20 percent of millennials are willing to ask for a discount, as compared to 8 percent of the U.S. general population.

Access to care

In accessing health care, baby boomers were never happy to stand in line, but we tolerated reasonable delay. In contrast, millennials are accustomed to instant access and instant gratification. This creates significant challenges for frontline health care services, whether emergency rooms or physician clinics. Many providers are attempting to adapt with computer-generated waiting times and text-monitored appointment schedules, but the daily excitement of health emergencies can wreak havoc on even the best-organized health practice.

Finally, the fate of national health reform may rest in the hands of millennials. The financial architecture of the Affordable Care Act only works if the millennials sign up for health insurance. Due to their age, millennials are fortunate to be much less susceptible to chronic diseases than their seniors, but millennials will still need to make decisions on how they will seek and pay for health care. As the impact of health reform continues to unfold in the marketplace, keeping a close eye on millennials could teach us a great deal about what lies in store for the next generation of health care providers.

Read full story at The Tennessean
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