As the Jan. 31, 2016, open enrollment deadline neared, speculation was rampant as to how many millennials would sign up for health insurance on the federal exchanges. Why all the discussion about the millennials’ health insurance choices? A major reason is that they make up the largest proportion of the U.S. labor force today, and it is expected they will grow to half the workforce by 2020 and to 75 percent in 10 years. In order for HealthCare.gov to be successful, a certain number of “young invincibles” need to enroll.

Although everyone is looking to millennials to be the young and healthy members in the system, according to a recent Forbes article, “Millennials represent the sickest cohort of 20- and 30-somethings in the last century,” confirmation that they too are in need of health insurance.

Of course, they are also in need of disability insurance, dental insurance, vision plans and supplemental health insurance products.

See also: How workers’ views on retirement change as they age [Infographic]

Much research has been done on millennials – their habits, likes and dislikes are all well documented and understood, and they are viewed by many as powerful drivers for change. Given that distinction, here are some ways insurers, brokers and employers can adapt to attract and retain members of this key group:

1. Make it simple.

Customer expectations for health insurance are being set by non-health care companies, like Amazon.com and Apple. While everyone wants choice – particularly price-sensitive millennials who grew up comparison shopping online – too many choices can be overwhelming. A 2015 study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research revealed that too many health plan options result in less rational choices by employees.

In fact, the study found that 85 percent of people would be better off if their employer offered only one plan. Hence, a guided shopping experience that supports personalized, informed choices is key.

2. Meet them where they are.

The common stereotype is that millennials are attached to their smartphones and tablets 24/7. Turns out the stereotype is true. Research indicates that individuals ages 18 to 36 spend an average of 17.8 hours a day with different types of media. And among the various forms of media, social is king, with 71 percent of millennials saying they engage in social media daily. Therefore, embrace social media in marketing and ensure every touch point in the user experience can support mobile devices.

3. Education needs to happen throughout the year.

Insurers who are eager to build member-for-life relationships need to be in touch with consumers on an ongoing basis to educate, recommend and delight. Millennials love videos and entertainment. Short and funny educational videos that demystify health insurance can help insurers and employers connect and inform millennial consumers throughout the year.

4. What millennials want, others want too.

While millennials may be the most vocal about their preferences, other generations are interested in much of the same functionality that millennials cherish. As stated in a recent TechCrunch article: “Yes, millennials are annoying customers, but here is the irony: Everyone wants these features.” Moreover, while millennials are more likely to manage their health and healthcare needs using technology, a considerable number of older Americans are doing so as well, according to a McKinsey survey. 

Understanding what will attract and retain millennial customers is half the battle. The bigger challenge is executing on that knowledge. One effective way to meet the demands of millennials is through a health insurance e-commerce platform or private exchange. These insurer-led exchanges allow employers and insurers to adapt to the needs of millennials, provide shopping, choice, instant access, and education tools. Millennials purchasing health insurance need to be treated like consumers of other retail products, and a well-designed private exchange can make that a reality.

Millennials are no longer the future — they are the here-and-now — and much of what they want aligns with the wishes of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. Health insurers, employers, and brokers would do well to get on the millennial bandwagon, or risk being left out in the cold.

See also:

Have millennials made quitting more common?

5 retirement savings myths about Gen X and millennials

   

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