A majority of young Americans disapprove of the Affordable Care Act, according to a December 2013 poll by Harvard’s Institute of Politics. Less than one in three of the “Millennials” in that poll said they planned to get insurance through an exchange if eligible. This general distrust of healthcare may be rooted in other social views held by the Millennial generation, born between 1980 and 1995. This generation will certainly change healthcare – and the public’s view of healthcare – as Millennials age, require healthcare and even practice medicine.
It is vital that people from the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, and Generation X consider the opinions and perspectives of the young Millennial generation, especially when it comes to their views on the healthcare system that must serve the nation for decades to come. The Millennials, which are about 80 million strong, are the taxpayers, patients, parents and doctors of tomorrow.
Social Trust and Finances
The Harvard poll revealed many of the reasons behind the Millennial disdain for the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare.” First, the pollsters said the young Americans held general mistrust for the president who pushed the plan and for Congress. Next, Millennials said they believed Obamacare would bring higher costs and worse care.
According to Pew Research Social & Demographic Trends published in March 2014, Millennials are at or near the highest levels of political disaffiliation in the 25 years that organization has been conducting surveys. Pew also noted religious disaffiliation was at or near record levels in this generation. About half of Millennials describe themselves as political independents and 29 percent say they do not affiliate themselves with any religion.
The Millennials seem to shy away from institutions of all sorts including marriage. Only 26 percent of Millennials are married, compared with 36 percent of Generation X and 48 percent of Baby Boomers at that age. Nearly 70 percent of Millennials say they would like to marry but refrain because they feel they do not have enough money.
Social trust and finances, or lack thereof, is the driving forces behind the Millennial generation’s views on healthcare and for good reason. This generation carries greater financial burdens than previous generations, many of them already saddled with overwhelming student loans before they even enter the job market. Less than half of Millennials believe they will receive any Social Security benefits when they are older.
Millennial Healthcare Practitioners
Millennials now practice medicine alongside other generations as doctors, nurses and technicians. Over the course of their careers, Millennial practitioners will see healthcare change dramatically with technology predominantly driving those changes. Millennials are the first “digital native” generation in this country, meaning these young people were born after the advent of digital technology and therefore they have never had to adapt to it. This gives Millennials an unprecedented advantage in the development and use of medical technologies.
Only time will tell how the Millennial Generations views will change healthcare, both from the patient standpoint and the perspective of the practitioner.