For the first time in modern history, America’s workforce spans four generations. In this new era of multigenerational workers, a “one size fits all” approach to health insurance is a thing of the past.
The generational gap is as varied as it is immense. There are the young-adult Millennials, the middle-aged Gen Xers, Baby Boomers nearing retirement age and the Silent Generation in their 70s and beyond. Each group has vastly different health insurance needs.
Take, for example, Millennials. A recent Bankrate survey shows many prefer health plans with lower deductibles and higher premiums. Meanwhile, Pew Research reports that the Baby Boomer population is hyper-focused on long-term care coverage needs and how best to manage associated costs beyond Medicare.
This workforce shift is unprecedented and poses significant hurdles for businesses as they seek to provide affordable and appropriate health coverage options across employee lifespans. Both large and small group employers are impacted, though companies with 100 or fewer employees are more likely to feel the financial squeeze because there are fewer individuals to spread risk and defray costs.
Juggling vastly different insurance coverage needs can be quite difficult, especially for the more than 28 million small businesses employing nearly half of all U.S. workers. Affordable Care Act legislation adds further complexity as companies assess their group health plan options, or in some cases whether to offer them at all. So, what are employers to do?
In response, many are increasingly turning to private healthcare insurance exchange solutions as an effective answer to meet the diversity of benefit needs from Generation Me to Generation We.
“Private exchanges are marketplaces of health insurance and other related products,” according to management consulting group Booz Allen. They offer access to multiple health plans in a single, unified program and are attractive because they enable workers to individually select the right coverage for their current life needs.
The private exchange platform provides an ideal bridge across generational divides. For example, a 22-year-old single female starting her first job out of college will likely want a different plan than the 59-year-old manager with a spouse, three children and plans to retire in the near future.
Employers are moving to these exchanges more quickly than forecasted, according to new data from consulting firm Accenture. The company estimates that some six million individuals signed up for workplace health coverage through private exchanges in 2014 alone, roughly two times the number expected. It’s predicted that private exchange participation will exceed public exchange enrollments by 2018, if not sooner.
Much of this expansion is driven by the combination of health care reform and a workforce that now spans a 50-plus year spectrum.
The age of the four-generation workforce has dawned. Owners and small businesses are wise to embrace the private exchange that technology employees have come to rely on, such as online enrollment, as they seek to cost-effectively address the needs of their workforce across all stages of their lives.