Millennials make up a third of the U.S. workforce. Their prevalence makes it all the more important to recognize that the health care options that appeal to older members won't necessarily resonate with the 20- and 30-something crowd. Millennial preferences, along with the fact of union members' relatively better access to medical benefits (94%, compared to 66% of non-union members), can figure in an effective millennial recruitment plan.
Millennials in the Health Care System
According to a recent millennial health care report from the Transamerica Center for Health Studies, affordability issues lead many millennials choose to forgo health insurance. In many cases, they believe that paying out-of-pocket for care is ultimately cheaper than paying for monthly premiums, copays, deductibles and coinsurance. That same report found that 20% of Millennials cannot afford routine health care expenses. They're more likely than Gen Xers and baby boomers to dip into their savings, use credit cards, or withdraw from a retirement account to cover out-of-pocket health care expenses.
Millennials also have a generally negative view of the U.S. health care system. Accenture's 2019 Digital Health Consumer Survey found younger Americans to be either "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied" with the state of the existing health care system at much higher rates than older generations. They have high expectations for "effectiveness, convenience, efficiency and transparency" and tend to seek those features from nontraditional service providers like retail clinics or telemedicine. In fact, only 67% of Millennials have a primary care provider, compared to 84% of Baby Boomers and 76% of Gen Xers.
Though millennials tend to be healthier and see doctors less frequently than older people, they still value access to health care benefits — especially holistic ones that combine medical, mental health and wellness programs with straightforward, digital-friendly offerings. Demonstrating that the union bargains for health care benefits that meet their needs is critical for millennial recruitment. According to the Transamerica study, 70% of millennials are more committed to a job if they receive benefits that promote their health and well-being.
Shaping Plan Offerings for Millennials
When bargaining for benefits, the union should highlight plans that provide prompt, affordable care, whether through a primary care provider, a clinic or a telemedicine service. Promote access to plans that offer mobile apps that help millennials manage their health, navigate benefits, compare costs and schedule appointments.
Along with convenience, specialty benefits like prescription, dental and vision appeal to millennials' focus on holistic wellness. It's also worthwhile to consider introducing benefits that millennials want even if older generations may not. For example, many millennials are delaying having children until their 30s and 40s. This trend may require a different type of family planning medical care, such as coverage for special health needs or fertility treatments due to advanced maternal age.
When recruiting new members, emphasize any special offerings that appeal to millennials and help your members understand the health care benefits available through the union. Eliminate industry jargon where you can, and speak to their bottom line. Provide cost comparisons for common medical visits or procedures that explain the out-of-pocket cost compared to what union-bargained insurance covers.
Your communications should also outline members' options and the benefits of each. For instance, enrolling in a high-deductible plan keeps premium costs low for many, and adding a health savings account to cover health-related costs provides another means to save money. For others, offerings with high monthly premiums and lower deductibles might make more financial sense — but they won't be able to choose the appropriate plan until they understand the full breadth of their options.
When considering how health care fits into millennial recruitment efforts, remember that one size does not fit all. Adding access to clinics or telemedicine isn't a reason to eliminate primary care provider benefits; though some millennials want to see a doctor through a screen or at a retail location, others don't. The most important thing is to offer a wide selection of plans that are easy to understand and then allow members to pick what makes the most sense for their individual situation.
By and large, millennials need to see how the union can meet their health care expectations before they'll feel open to recruitment, so focus your efforts on collective bargaining that emphasizes the well-being of the member over corporate profit. As the cost of health care continues to rise and wage growth remains relatively stagnant, the union stands ready to ensure its members have affordable access to quality care.
Heather Kerrigan started her career in journalism at Governing magazine, reporting on state and local politics and policy, with a specific focus on public workforce, environment, health care, education and technology issues. Prior to co-founding River Horse Communications, Heather offered freelance editorial services to a variety of outlets, including serving as volume editor and lead author for SAGE Publications' Historic Documents series and editor-in-chief of The Kanter Journal. Heather also blogs for two government-focused publications, GovLoop and NEOGOV, covering issues of importance to federal employees. Heather is the author of the book Retire Rich With Your 401(k) Plan. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from The George Washington University.