By Sandy Calandra, Human Resources Business Partner, Independent Health

Let’s face it: the average age of compensation and benefit managers is almost twice as old as new hires at their organizations.

And because of that age gap, it is important for benefit managers to be aware how younger Millennials and the up-and-coming Centennials (born after 1996) perceive health insurance and coverage when informing them on their health care options. Employees younger than 26 may have had health coverage through their parents, and haven’t had to worry about the type of plan they have had.

The first thing to do when explaining benefits might be to clear up lack of understanding: many don’t even know how to enroll in a plan.  A study published in 2019 by Transamerica Center for Health Studies found that among some of the reasons Millennial-aged employees don’t get health insurance is because they don’t know how to apply. One Human Resource blogger pointed out that “more than 50 percent of Millennial employees don’t understand their benefit options and would rather clean out their email than research health coverage.”

Once that misunderstanding is overcome, it’s easier to help them make the right choices for themselves.  Here are three key take-aways to keep in mind as you discuss your company’s health plan choices with your younger generations:

They’re very concerned about how to pay for care. 

A survey by Business Insider and Morning Consult found that 49% of Millennials have had to delay medical or dental care because of their finances. Another study found that Millennials are more likely to pay for significant out-of-pocket expenses with credit cards. 

Every little amount helps when saving, so show your younger employees the value of tax-advantaged medical expense accounts, such as Health Savings Accounts (if your company offers a HSA-qualified high deductible plan), or Flexible Spending Account or Health Reimbursement Arrangement.

In addition, some of our younger co-workers may not be aware that virtually all commercial, fully insured health plans must cover preventive services with no cost share.  While most Millennials and Centennials still have a bit of the feeling of invincibility, preventive health care is still extremely important no matter how old we are.

They typically don’t have a Primary Care Physician.

According to different surveys, up to 55 percent of people born after 1997 do not have a Primary Care Physician.  However, no matter your age, a primary care physician is an important component of staying healthy. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that the younger generations prefer to get their health care in other ways, such as through virtual visits or telemedicine. That’s why most health plans now cover telemedicine visits, including behavioral health visits, using an online service. Health plan members are able to connect directly with a physician to get their care. 

They have a preference for mobile health apps

The use of digital apps that help people take care of themselves is growing in popularity.  A 2019 survey by Accenture reported that 51 percent of respondents manage their healthcare conditions and lifestyle with a wearable device or mobile app.

Health plans now include third-party mobile apps as part of their plan offerings that offer access to health coaches, dietitians, and certified diabetes educators. They enable people to keep on track with their chronic condition management or connect with a support system to stay healthy. To encourage proper nutrition, some plans also offer mobile apps that help their members obtain healthy menus, or order home delivered meals. 

How can the Human Resources team help?

An organization can be proactive by identifying employees who will be aging off their parents’ coverage (usually age 26). Consider offering a one-on-one meeting with these employees to explain their options.  Another option is to structure an Open Enrollment session specifically for employees in this age group to discuss their particular concerns and address their needs. 

In the end, Millennials want from their health care what the rest of us want: something that offers value, convenience and quality. Knowing where they’re coming from when beginning the conversation will go a long way in helping them choose the plan that is right for them.