Millennials and health care: what do they want?
Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | 09.12.16
(Harrisburg) -- Millennials.
Just mentioning the word can make you think of hipster beards and demanding attitudes.
But they're now the country's largest generation, and they're going to need health care as they age too.
In this new age of competition, health care organizations are going to have to jockey for their business.
Experts and surveys say when it comes to health care, millennials want a deal.
"Doing a lot of shopping and looking for real value in where they're getting their care," says 28-year-old Caitlyn Gillooley, a senior research analyst at the Advisory Board, a consulting firm based in D.C.
"I research the heck out of it."
She knows the health care world inside and out - but is also talking about her own approach.
"Well my parents are probably unique. My parents are super cheap and I probably learned that from them. My parents are always ones to want to buy everything on sale, they would never get anything full price," says Gillooley.
Derek Whitesel - also 28 - is an aggressive health care shopper too - even though he barely uses it.
He last visited a doctor in 2012.
Photo by Ben Allen/WITF
Derek and Amber Whitesel's son Finley.
But Derek and his wife Amber have a baby boy, and that means he can't risk going without insurance.
He picks a plan every year from the Affordable Care Act marketplace.
There, he'll pursue the best deal.
"I think I'm pretty good at researching things and going through online forms," says Derek.
Shopping on the health care exchange is one thing - the price is right there.
But looking at a bill for a surgery can feel like trying to understand the terms of service for an app you just downloaded on your phone.
A health system in the midstate is trying though.
"It was a lot of work because there's a lot of detail in this. Because we want to give the patient the most accurate estimate possible. There's a lot of things to consider," says Marsha Librand, at Lancaster General Health.
It's the most comprehensive price check tool from any of the major health systems in the midstate.
At Lancaster General's site, you can either pick a procedure, like a mammogram or EKG, or pick from a bundle of services, like everything it will take to get a total hip replacement or hernia repair.
Then using your insurance information, you can get the list price, what insurance pays, and what you will pay.
"They know what their out of pocket is going to be before they have the service done. In the past, it's very common in health care, the patient will have no idea what their out of pocket is going to be until they were home recuperating, and they got that first bill," adds Librand.
The tool launched in April with little marketing, and so far, the group that's used it the most? millennials (though Gen X wasn't far behind).
But it is only good for people who have choice.
Photo by Ben Allen/WITF
28-year-old Derek Whitesel stands in the kitchen in his home in Perry County with his wife Amber and son Finley.
For Derek Whitesel, who lives in Perry County, the health care options are limited.
And so insurance premiums are more important to him than pricing for the actual doctors' visits or procedures.
"If we travel a little bit further, it would be less money," says Whitesel. "But I think we chose to be closer because I don't want to travel an extra 20 minutes whenever I need to just go see a doctor nearby."
That's the complication.
Price is a factor - but it's not the only one.
Whitesel is willing to pay a little more if it's convenient.
And Caitlyn Gillooley does the same.
She'll go to the urgent care right by her house, even if the lines are a little longer.
She makes the calculations in her head.
"You can walk in without an appointment even, you can get your prescription or your lab tests in the same place instead of having to go somewhere across town," she says.
"When millennials are thinking about where to get their care, the cost is important, but it's not just the dollar amount, it's really the value and the convenience is what's bringing that value along with the low cost."
Health systems may be quickly discovering - this next generation isn't like their parents.
Cost plays a role, but there's a whole bundle of other ways to get millennials through the door.
Published in Healthcare Transformation