Millennial worries about paying medical expenses reflect a growing desire among young adults to mitigate risk, plan long-term, and trust the system. When Boomers and Xers were their age, they routinely took risks and tried to game the system. Chances are I won't get sick anytime soon, they would think, so why should I pay? – and if something really bad happens, well, Medicaid or some hospital will pick up the tab. Today's young adults, raised in the shadow of the Great Recession, are already thinking about what a catastrophic medical bill would mean for their finances, and their family's finances, over ten or twenty years.
In the workplace, millennial employees are similarly interested in a broad range of non-health benefits offering a comprehensive envelope of support and protection. As surveys have shown, millennials are not just worried about long-term health care costs – they are actually more worried than older generations about nearly every kind of unforeseen financial risk, from sudden income loss to uncovered medical costs to paying for their children's college education. And these benefits keep them on the job: 63 percent of millennials say that benefits are an important reason why they have stayed with their employer, also more than any other generation.
If those who hate the ACA end up lamenting how many young people actually sign up (and even curse them for saving the system), they may take some solace in reflecting on why young people are doing it. millennials want health insurance because they're risk averse, long-term planners, and trust their parents and the experts. These traits may persuade many opponents of Obamacare to think more highly of millennials – and to have more confidence in where they may lead America.