Report: When it comes to their health benefits, millennials are a different breed

Millennial workers at a table
Millennial workers were more likely than other generations to visit websites to research their health insurance choices, consult with a broker, and ask health plans to send them information via mail, according to a new report. Image: Getty/shironosov

A new report indicates that millennial workers interact with their health benefits differently than those from other generations, which suggests that health insurers and plan sponsors should take an innovative approach to engaging these customers.

The report (PDF), published by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), summarizes findings from the organization’s Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey, which it conducted in 2015.

“We find profound differences in how millennials deal with health issues and health coverage than their older colleagues at work,” Paul Fronstin, the director of EBRI’s Health Education and Research program and co-author of the report, said in an announcement (PDF).

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Baby boomers were the most likely to report overall satisfaction with their health plans, with 59% saying they were satisfied compared to 54% of millennials and 53% of Generation Xers. Yet millennials were more likely than other generations to say they were satisfied with the financial aspects of their plans, such as out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs.

Millennials were more engaged than baby boomers and Generation Xers in picking a health plan, as they were more likely to visit websites to research their choices, consult with a broker and ask health plans to send them information via mail. In addition, they were more likely to be engaged in making healthcare decisions, such as researching cost and quality information, according to the report.

Those findings, however, contrast with previous research on uninsured millennials, which indicated that 55% of this population said they were “not at all” or “not very informed” about their health insurance options.

Finally, millennial workers had the highest rates of many healthy behaviors, including engaging in regular exercise and maintaining a normal weight, according to the EBRI report. But they were also more likely than the other two generations surveyed to smoke cigarettes.

Based on that finding, the report notes that plan sponsors may want to experiment with plan design and education to decrease the rates of smoking among millennials. Further, employers and health plans may want to explore targeted ways to lower plan costs for the millennial population, given their higher level of engagement in plan shopping.