Gen Y's Benefits Expectations

Date: June 5, 2008

by Brooke Smith

Born between 1977 and 1994, generation Y is gaining visibility in the workforce now. And employers are going to have to address what kind of benefits plans will be suitable, said Karen Kesteris, director of marketing and product development, Green Shield Canada, speaking Thursday at the GIPC conference in Toronto.

Unfortunately, the health picture for gen Yers, for the most part, is not rosy. Some of the statistics for them and those close behind are startling:

  • In 2004, 29% of 12- to 17-year-olds were obese compared with 14% in 1978.
  • About 15% of youth ages 12 to 19 suffer from at least one chronic disease such as diabetes, cancer, mental illness, and bone and joint disorders.
  • The number of children getting type 2 diabetes has increased 15 times since 1990.

And with overall drug spending in Canada at $27 billion in 2007, it will only continue to increase if these statistics are any indication.

Green Shield looked at drug utilization of 16- to 25-year-old dependents of its clients' plan members. After oral contraceptives, the most used drug was antidepressants. In fact, 25% of all the drugs used by this group are in antidepressants. "As they get older, antidepressants will likely go to No. 1," said Kesteris. Proton pump inhibitors (for gastric acid ailments) was No. 4, and insulin and diabetic supplies was No. 9. But even if the statistics remained stagnant or decreased, employers will still need to take a different approach to their benefits plans.

HCSA In terms of plan design, gen Yers will most likely want some kind of health care spending account (HCSA) in addition to, say, a basic dental and medical plan. "They don't want to pay for what they're not going to use," said Kesteris.

Part-time lovers Generation Y may not necessarily be full-time employees. "A lot of them think they'll hold three part-time jobs," Kesteris said. As a result, she continued, plan sponsors may have to consider implementing benefits for part-time workers.

Get wired Plan sponsors must ensure that benefits information is available online–and accessible 24/7. If an employee has a question about his benefits plan at 3 a.m., he better be able to get the answer at 3 a.m., said Kesteris. This is a technologically savvy generation that grew up online–97% own a computer, 76% use instant messaging and 34% use websites as their main source of news.

Of course, preventive and proactive measures can help to keep employers' costs down. Currently, Green Shield offers wellness/preventive programs that employers can use for their plan members. But, Kesteris said, to keep costs contained, employers could implement a wellness/preventive program their plan members' dependents–that future workforce. At this point, however, that idea will remain in the future. "It's hard to sell plan sponsors on well-being [initiatives] for dependents."

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