This article is sponsored by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.
When it comes to being a millennial, parents just don’t understand. Here we are, living in the moment and binge-watching our favorite Netflix shows, while the adults in our lives constantly remind us to look ahead to the future. It seems like not a day goes by we aren’t coaxed into a conversation about money management, career advancement and, of course, health insurance.
Well, it’s that time of the year again; the “open enrollment” period when uninsured adults – especially those over the age of 26 – can enroll in a healthcare plan has arrived. This year, open enrollment runs from November 1, 2016 – January 31, 2017. But the question every millennial grapples with remains: Is health insurance really worth it? To find out, we need to better understand what’s being offered and how it affects our lives.
It’s important to begin by first dispelling any myths about millennials and our opposition to health insurance. First off, despite our outward bravado, most young adults understand that we’re not invincible. In fact, we’re quite interested in having health insurance. A June 2016 study conducted by the Transamerica Center for Health Studies (TCHS) surveyed over a thousand millennial adults (born between 1980 and 1997) and found that the percentage of uninsured millennials has dropped to 11% (from the previously recorded 23% of uninsured millennials in 2013). This is important to note because it means millennials are ready and willing to enroll in a healthcare plan, it’s simply a matter of overcoming some obstacles.
Prices, Priorities & Network Plans
The biggest factor for most millennials when deciding on a health insurance plan is price. Finding a job is tough; finding a career that pays well enough to afford financial independence is even more difficult (especially in the New Jersey/New York area). So the moment we actually start making any money, our first thought is usually about saving to move out of mom and dad’s house, not spending money on health insurance. The further down the priorities list we bump healthcare, the more willing we are to simply choose the cheapest plan. But, as with most things in our adult lives, there’s more to consider before making an informed decision. Which is where the conversation turns to networks.
When selecting a health insurance plan, it’s important to consider that plan’s network (meaning the range of doctors, hospitals and services that are contracted to offer plan members lower rates). Cheaper plans typically support smaller networks, which not only limits the kinds of healthcare provided – from surgical procedures or medication refills to mental healthcare such as co-pays for therapist visits – but also the geographical area of coverage. So for millennials who like to travel (which seemingly includes everyone ever, according to our Facebook feeds we pretend we don’t check anymore), or those with a chronic illness or mental health condition, it’s important to consider better coverage.
In fact, more than half of the millennials surveyed in the TCHS study had been diagnosed with either a chronic illness or health condition, 14% of which were related to an anxiety disorder (not to mention Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, OCD, a condition that often leads to anxiety). It’s at this crucial juncture that most millennials get frustrated; being willing to accept the facts and bite the (financial) bullet on quality health insurance is one thing, finding the information necessary to make an educated plan selection is entirely another.
Once we accept the fact that we need more information to make the right decision about our healthcare, the next challenge is figuring out where to find that information. After all, as important as it is to resist settling for the cheapest option, the most expensive plan can be an equally bad decision (especially for those managing a tight budget). Going back to that TCHS study, a staggering 64% of millennials rely on either their mother or step-mother to be their primary source of information. Now, being the rambunctious, rebellious spirits that we are, those of us that constantly remind our mothers that they don’t know anything will want to get our information elsewhere.
On the digital side of things, there are a number of online resource guides available. The first one to check out is the enrollment section of healthcare.gov, which is the federal government’s website managed by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. For more detailed information about specific NJ healthcare, it’s best to visit those sites directly, such as Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey or NJ FamilyCare. (Both offer plans for individuals, families or couples with/without dependent children, pregnant women and more.)
Enrolling in a health insurance plan may not seem like a high priority when we’re young, broke or busy, but it needs to be. To answer the question posed in the title, yes, healthcare is important. Whether we’re living life to the fullest traveling the globe or living an equally fulfilling life staying at home, health insurance is part of growing up. But don’t worry, growing up is just being a really big kid… right?