Aflac Study: Millennials Often Underestimate Health Care Costs

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Aflac, the leading provider of voluntary insurance sales at the worksite in the United States, announced results from the 2016 Aflac WorkForces Report, revealing how millennials are more likely to embrace a nontraditional approach to pay their medical expenses compared to older generations. They also are more likely than non-millennial generations to regularly underestimate the total cost of health care issues.

The online study, conducted by Lightspeed GMI on behalf of Aflac between January and February 2016, surveyed 1,500 benefits decision-makers and 5,000 employees at small, medium and large companies from across the United States.

"Employer-sponsored health care coverage is essential for employees," Aflac Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Matthew Owenby said. "But as costs continue to rise, the younger generations appear more likely to tackle health care-related financial issues by means that older generations would not consider, including crowdfunding."

Millennials willing to consider options for covering medical costs

In the midst of rising health care expenses, the Aflac study revealed that millennials (ages 18 to 36) are more likely than non-millennial generations to regularly underestimate the total cost of an injury or illness, including medical, household and out-of-pocket costs (66 percent vs. 45 percent). And 65 percent say if they had an unexpected out-of-pocket expense, they could afford less than $1,000. They are also more inclined than older generations to try unconventional means such as borrowing from friends or family and crowdsourcing to pay for out-of-pocket health care expenses.

"Millennials' resourcefulness in trying alternate means to cover health care costs illustrates their deep concern for financial safety in the event of an unexpected injury or illness." Owenby said. "But the bottom line is that they tend to be both financially strapped and less aware of the potential costs of an accident or illness. We need to do a better job in educating them about how voluntary insurance can provide solutions for those who are looking to avoid a crippling debt."

Voluntary insurance helps boost employee satisfaction

Although health care reform may have helped expand access to affordable health care, out-of-pocket costs can still be substantial. For example, the out-of-pocket limits for 2017 are $7,150 for individual coverage and $14,300 for family coverage, making added insurance protection like voluntary insurance increasingly relevant to help pay out-of-pocket costs.

Voluntary insurance includes coverage such as accident, disability, critical illness, hospital and much more. Unlike major medical insurance, voluntary insurance policies pay cash directly to the policyholder, unless otherwise assigned, when they are sick or injured to help cover unexpected out-of-pocket costs. Nearly 4 in 5 employees (79 percent) see a growing need for voluntary insurance today compared to last year. And of those, 60 percent say it's driven by the rising cost of medical services.

Employees who were offered voluntary benefits options at work reported higher levels of satisfaction with their jobs and their benefits. Compared to employees who aren't offered these benefits, employees whose worksite offered voluntary benefits are more likely to say:

  • They are preparedto pay for out-of-pocket expenses not covered by major medical/health insurance related to an unexpected serious illness or accident (73 percent vs. 56 percent).

  • They are extremely or very satisfied with their jobs (73 percent vs. 57 percent).

"Whether employees are creating a crowdfunding page or saddling themselves with credit card debt, one thing is clear: No one group, whether millennials or older generations, is adequately prepared for a potential health care crisis," Owenby said. "A robust benefits package that includes major medical and voluntary insurance is more important than ever to ensure workers are financially secure. It will not only help provide peace of mind, but also will help workers continue to serve as significant contributors in the workplace."