5 Tips for Designing Health Benefits for Millennial Workers

In 2015, millennial workers surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce . Put another way, 80 million employees between the ages of 18 and 34 now rule the workplace. And employers should take note because this group’s approach to life— including their healthcare needs —differs from previous generations. Your

Millennials (also known as Generation Y) seek more than money from their jobs. According to PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), the younger side of the millennial spectrum ranks work / life balance as their top priority, followed by health benefits and compensation. They value flexibility, convenience, and technologies in the search for more personalized experiences that meet their needs and emphasize well-being.

How Millennials Approach Health Care

Having grown up with the Internet and a wealth of information at their fingertips, many millennials approach health care with different expectations and skill sets than previous generations. In addition, more student debt and less earning power than previous generations impacts how Gen Y shops for and chooses (or doesn’t choose) healthcare services.

An article in Becker’s Hospital Review reveals that 74 percent of those between 18 and 34 are interested in telehealth and 71 percent prefer mobile apps to book appointments, share health data, and manage preventive care. Millennials are also reluctant to see doctors on a yearly basis— more than 93 percent do not schedule preventive care visits. Rather they prefer to seek care when they need it, at the time and place of their choosing. More than twice as many of the Y generation are likely to use retail clinics than baby boomers.

A multi-method research study by Communispace confirms these findings. Personal stories, a national online survey, and a psychographic segmentation study all informed the results. For instance, millennials visited a doctor less while non-millennials got regular physical and dental exams more. Gen Y looked up health information more online and tended to treat a condition at home before or instead of going to a doctor. Non-millennials received vaccinations and took medications as prescribed more seriously.

What Employers of Millennials Need to Know

PwC highlights several strategic changes that employers and healthcare providers should keep in mind in order to meet the needs of the millennial workforce.

  • Employers will need to pivot from wellness (strictly health) to well-being (life / work balance), and from employee benefits to broader “employee experiences” to better meet the expectations of millennials.
  • Insurers and healthcare organizations will need to work closely with employers and consumers to support and enhance the well-being of their members and patients, and understand and deliver on the expectations of Gen Y. For instance, employers may want to consider offering health plans that provide the type of care options that millennials prefer.
  • New technologies and services will continue to impact how consumers, employers, insurers, and clinicians interact. Look for national retailers to expand service offerings related to health and well-being, for private health exchanges to offer more holistic employee experiences, and for new mobile technologies to create communities of personalized, real-time support and feedback.
  • Millennials are very cause related. A Cone Communications study revealed that this generation is prepared to make personal sacrifices to make an impact on issues they care about. That may be in the form of paying more for a product, sharing products rather than buying, or taking a pay cut to work for a responsible company. What’s more, millennials want to know what companies—and their employers—are doing to improve the world around them.

Offering a Health Benefits Package That Attracts Millennial Workers

Kaiser Permanente (formerly Group Health) has embarked on a number of improvements to healthcare delivery in order to offer care in ways that best suit people’s needs. A number of our benefits features fulfill the millennials’ wish lists:

1. Easier access to care

Walk-in CareClinics are staffed by Kaiser Permanente providers and located at select Bartell Drug locations in King County. Anyone aged 2 and up receive care or consultation for minor illnesses or injuries. No appointment is necessary and most insurance is accepted or patients can pay a flat $75 fee.

2. Quick online diagnoses

Our online visit service is available to Kaiser Permanente members. Users fill out an online interview detailing symptoms and a short health history. An auto-generated response based on clinician-approved protocols is typically received within an hour, offering diagnosis, treatment plan and any needed prescriptions. Online visit addresses more than 20 common medical conditions, including colds, flu, and allergy symptoms; minor eye conditions; urinary tract infections; and more. The cost is only $10, far less than a traditional doctor’s office visit, and about a third as much as a typical telehealth interaction.

3. Convenient mobile access

Kaiser Permanente’s mobile app allows patients of Kaiser Permanente medical offices to make appointments, exchange e-mails with their doctors, view lab and test results, refill prescriptions, and more from most smartphones.

4. Choice of coverage components

Kaiser Permanente offers 20 network/benefit combinations on Liazon, a private exchange, giving employers an opportunity to move to a defined contribution funding model. And allowing employees to have more freedom in how they choose the components of their coverage. Our products are also offered through the Mercer Marketplace, and will be on the Aon Active Exchange in 2017.

5. Real-time consultations

Through our 24-hour Consulting Nurse Service, Kaiser Permanente providers assess a member’s symptoms and urgency, and recommend appropriate next steps, from self-care to urgent or emergency care.

As the nature of the workforce and healthcare needs change, health plan carriers and healthcare providers will continue to adapt with products and services that meet the desires of the marketplace. And if millennials are any example, employers will have to be willing to transform, too.


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601 Union St., Ste. 3100 Seattle, WA 98101-1374 

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All plans offered and underwritten by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington or Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington Options, Inc.