Millennials Muddied On Insurance Coverage – Help Mom!

While the Department of Health and Human Services has rightly bragged about the widespread increase in insurance coverage among Americans, there is a big problem in this country when it comes to insurance for the millennials, findings show from a recent research report from Transamerica Center for Health Studies (TCHS).

Yes, our future.

Millennials generally have a lack of knowledge about what’s involved in complicated insurance policies, the costs involved, never mind too many skipping health checkups altogether or not even bothering to get coverage.

Luckily, some millennials are relying on mom for advice: no surprise there, according to the new TCHS report, Millennial Survey: Young Adults’ Healthcare Reality (We’ll get to that in a bit). TCHS is a division of the Transamerica Institute, a national non-profit that’s dedicated to identifying, researching and analyzing the most relevant health care issues facing consumers and employers nationwide.

At the outset, the survey numbers don’t seem bad.  Last month, HHS released a report that said the Affordable Care Act (ACA) resulted in about 20 million people gaining health insurance coverage between the passage of the law in 2010 and early 2016 – a historic reduction in the uninsured.

“Thanks to the ACA, 20 million Americans have gained health care coverage,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “We have seen progress in the past six years that the country has sought for generations. “Americans with insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace or through their employers have benefited from better coverage and a reduction in the growth in health care costs.”

Numbers Behind The Story

The good news is that millennials are becoming increasingly insured. Those uncovered dipped from 23 percent in a 2013 survey to 11 percent, according to the most recent TCHS report. Indeed, coverage gains for young adults began in 2010 because of the provision of the ACA that allows children to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until they’re age 26.

The health system is counting on younger, stronger and healthier millennials to reduce costs, and, more importantly, keep themselves healthy. Yet the TCHS  report shows some troubling numbers, including:

•    Almost 50 percent of millennials admit to “minimizing healthcare costs” by skipping care.

•    More than 50 percent of millennials have been diagnosed with a chronic illness or heart condition. The most common conditions among the population are depression (17 percent), weight issues (15 percent) and anxiety disorders (14 percent).

•    About 21 percent of millennials are unable to afford their routine healthcare expenses. (Some 26 percent say they can afford it with difficulty).

• 66 percent of millennials believe that $200 plus premiums per month is unaffordable

•    A majority of uninsured are women (60 percent) and unemployed (68 percent).

The Reality

Mindy Hanson, 32, of Des Moines, Iowa, has been an example of that reality. With a husband and three small children – ages 10, 6, and 5 – she personally didn’t have insurance for more than four years, not unlike many people her age.  Her family was covered under her husband’s work policy, but it was too expensive for her. “It was very scary,” Hanson said of the time she was not covered by insurance.

“I actually broke my toe at one point, and we had a few hospital bills crop up.”  Whenever she felt sick, she went to a local community healthcare clinic and paid about $25 to $30 per visit. Hanson said she knows many people her age who don’t have insurance. “It’s cheaper to go to a walk-in clinic and pay them.”

For the health system generally, “the challenge going forward are the uninsured millennials, who are needed in the market because they are generally healthier, and use their healthcare less to offset older and less healthy consumers,” said Hector De La Torre, Executive Director of TCHS.  “The ACA has helped reduce the uninsured population among millennials,   but affordability and access remain a concern,” he said. The problem is not only the uninsured, other underlying factors, are involved, the report shows:

•    55 percent of the uninsured are “not at all or not very informed about the healthcare insurance options available to them.”

•    52 percent of the uninsured millennials have been uninsured for more than two years.

•    47 percent of the uninsured millennials don’t plan on having health insurance in 2017.

“Some changes can be made to improve insurance prospects for millennials,” De LaTorre said. That could include comparison-shopping through health plans and services for consumers in Exchanges, he said.  (About 37 percent of millennials have comparison shopped for health insurance, he adds).

“Getting them insured is going to take direct (phone or face-to-face) communication and education,” De La Torre said of millennials.  “Of those who rely on family and friends for health information, their mother (or stepmother) significantly outranks everyone else” in helping them make insurance decisions, he added. Hanson would second that.

She felt obtaining insurance information was not only confusing, but “the information was just not as available as I thought it would be,” she said. “There are some  websites I’ve gone to, there is so much information you don’t know what pertains to you and what you don’t need to know.”

And for Hanson, mom was the best go-to for insurance advice.

“I got a lot of information from my mom, she’s in the insurance industry and the one I relied on for my questions,” she said.

Hanson is now covered by her husband’s insurance.

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