Let’s be honest, when it comes to healthcare, millennials take a lot of heat. Transamerica Center for Health Studies most recent survey of millennials and healthcare found almost half of Generation Y chose to minimize their costs by skipping out on preventive care. Our most common substitute for a doctor’s visit? Taking vitamins and supplements, of course!
But, it’s not just our health habits that get noticed. One of the most common pitfalls for today’s millennial is in the world of health insurance, an industry shockingly more complex to understand than most people realize.
Rachel Ritlop, founder of the site The Confused Millennial, knows the health insurance process well. Rachel’s business platform entails coaching millennials to empower themselves by launching their own blogs and online businesses. But, for health insurance, the tables turned, and she needed her own coach.
“After working the traditional 9 to 5 job, I started a business at 25. I was able to get on my parents insurance plan. But once I turned 26, I no longer had health insurance, so I had to get it. That was really fun,” Ritlop says, laughing a bit.
Forging Your Own Career and Health Path
Ritlop’s first stop was healthcare.gov, where she shopped for and found health insurance herself. She found the website unintuitive and confusing. The timing couldn’t have been worse.
“I was just in the process of learning taxes and how to keep my books as an entrepreneur,” Ritlop says. “I think the hardest thing was questioning what my income would be, and if I would qualify for a subsidized plan.”
As it turns out Ritlop did qualify and got monthly premiums at a good rate.
She’s one of the majority of millennials whose career goals include entrepreneurship. According to a poll by Young Invincibles, a national organization dedicated to issues important to millennials, 51 percent either own a business or organization, plan to start a business, or would like to in the future.
“The Affordable Care Act helps support young entrepreneurs, who dream of building their own businesses or who may be working multiple part-time jobs by providing health insurance options outside of employer-sponsored plans,” says Erin Hemlin, Young Invincible’s National Director of Training and Education. “In fact, the vast majority can find a plan for less than $75 per month after tax credits.”
Be Your Own Advocate
While tax credits can make a big difference, there are still other factors to consider.
Although Ritlop was able to get insurance, it wasn’t perfect. Her initial plan assigned her to a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) for her the first year. HMOs, by design, have lower monthly premiums, but have fewer options for a choice of doctors. Most HMOs will also require referrals for specialists most of the time. This one gave her a primary care doctor who was 45 minutes away from where she lived. She didn’t know what to do to change this, and as a result, despite having insurance, didn’t go to her primary care doctor that entire year.
The following year, she got married and went through a broker to get health insurance. Brokers are individuals or businesses who can provide recommendations and help people enroll in health plans. Ritlop recommends going this route as it’s a lot easier. The only problem is some brokers can be affiliated with specific health insurers, limiting your options.
She and her now husband thought it would make sense to do a joint health insurance plan. Her husband, a fellow millennial, also happens to have a chronic illness, psoriatic arthritis. Chronic illness adds a whole other dimension and level of importance to obtaining insurance as a millennial.
“It can shatter a lot of people,” Ritlop says.
After doing some research and working with their broker, it turns out that it didn’t pay for them to have a joint plan. If they went that route, Ritlop would actually have had to pay more for her insurance. Plus, once you marry, you have to pay back the subsidy that was so great in the beginning.
“It’s good to do your own research,” Ritlop says.
The Misconception about Millennials
While some millennials do gamble with their healthcare by not getting health insurance, it does not represent what most millennials really want, Hemlin says.
“From a broader industry perspective, there is a misconception that young people don’t want or value health coverage. That’s simply not true,” Hemlin says. “From our work over the last few years, we’ve talked to thousands of young adults, and we’ve found people really do want coverage. They want the peace of mind of knowing they’ll be covered if they get sick or in an accident, and they want to get regular check-ups and preventative care.”
As we all know, while it is important, that “peace of mind” costs money. Check out the options and find what works best for you. And along the way, prove to the other generations in this country that we are smarter than they think.
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*This article was originally published on March 1, 2018. It has been converted to a new format as part of YMyHealth’s new website.