How millennials are driving up health insurance costs for everyone else

One-third of millennials have a health condition that reduces both their quality of life and their life expectancy, according to a recent study of medical claims done by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index.

What does that mean for this aging generation’s future?

“Based on these findings, we’re seeing that millennials are not seeking preventative care and it’s not only having an effect on their immediate health, but will significantly impact their long-term health as well,” said Dr. Vincent Nelson, vice president, Medical Affairs for Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Here’s what you need to know about this looming crisis and how it may impact health insurance costs for everyone else.

What’s the issue?PR Image Factory / Shutterstock

Nearly 44% of the millennial generation, born between 1981 and 1988, report having a diagnosis for at least one chronic health condition, according to a poll conducted by The Harris Poll for CNBC Make It.

Compared to the general public, millennials account for a higher percentage of diagnosed conditions like migraines, major depression, asthma, neurodevelopmental disorders and mental health issues like eating disorders and psychotic disorders, according to the CNBC/The Harris Poll survey.

And the Blue Cross Blue Shield study noted that rates of millennials managing health conditions stand in stark contrast to the slightly older Gen X generation, who researchers found are much more likely to be healthier when they’re older.

That study also revealed that young people’s overall health begins to decline at just age 27.

There’s also a geographical component involved, with millennials from southern states like Alabama, West Virginia and Louisiana ranking as the least healthy, while out those west in California, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado, rate as the healthiest.

How this could get worse after COVIDMirror-Images / Shutterstock

And then there’s the context of the pandemic.

While for the most part millennials haven’t had to worry about the serious COVID cases plaguing their parents and grandparents’ generations, the pandemic will likely still have a serious impact on their health.

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The reason is that everyone is visiting the doctor far less these days, whether to avoid potential COVID exposure or to cut costs.

Even with telehealth factored in, 70% of physicians surveyed in March by the American Medical Association reported they were receiving fewer visits than before the pandemic.

Given such a decline, observers worry there will be an explosion of diagnoses once things begin to return to normal.

And top of that, the Blue Cross Blue Shield study found that one in three millennials doesn’t have a primary care physician right now, making them less likely to seek out preventative care on a regular basis — until it’s potentially too late.

What does that mean for health insurance?vinnstock / Shutterstock

With all these millennials managing health conditions, their insurance claims and demands on the system are expected to increase as they continue to age — resulting in higher premiums for everyone.

Americans are already starting to see their premiums go up as the average annual premium for family coverage through employer-provided health insurance rose 37% between 2015 and 2020, from $15,545 to $21,342, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

And for a family plan purchased through the Affordable Care Act marketplace in the same period, premiums rose 97% from $8,724 to $17,244.

In a bid to reverse the trend, President Joe Biden’s recent COVID relief bill included a measure that caps annual premiums for Obamacare plans, which has reduced more than 1 million Americans’ health insurance costs by 25%.

The bottom line is that it has become increasingly important to shop around for the best and most affordable health insurance available.

Comparison-shopping health policies can save you hundreds of dollars a month in the short term — and much more than that in the long term.

What to do if your health care bills are piling upCat Box / Shutterstock

If you’re one of the millions of Americans managing at least one chronic health condition, you know it takes a toll on more than just your health.

As a study by Cardiovascular Business shows, those with at least a single chronic condition spend twice as much on their out-of-pocket health care expenses than those without any medical issues. And two concurrent chronic issues can result in paying five times as much.

Are your medical bills piling up? You have a few options to find some relief.

  • Cut down your debt payments. If you've been relying heavily on credit to get you through the pandemic, try to reduce your monthly payments and get out of debt sooner by rolling all of your balances into a lower-interest debt consolidation loan.

  • Make saving your policy. When was the last time you looked around for a better price on your auto insurance? If it’s been a while, you may be overpaying by $1,000 every year. Shop around to ensure you’re paying the best possible rate. And while you’re at it, use the same technique to save hundreds on homeowners insurance, too.

  • Turn your pennies into a portfolio. Forget everything you thought you knew about the stock market: You don’t need to be rich to see serious gains. Using a smartphone app, you can invest "spare change" from everyday purchases and transform pennies into serious returns.