Commentary: There are a lot of things that millennials as a generation are killing - from diamond industry, to Applebee’s - but it’s only now as we’re staring down the weed-filled road of aging that some articles starting to ask, what’s going to end up killing us?
A study by Blue Cross Blue Shield, who would probably like to keep us alive longer if only to have us pay our premiums for more years to come, does a type of depressing market research with their data. The first ominous news: “The major decline in health happens at 27.”
I just did the math on that for myself and recoiled at how that’s closer to a decade away than the five-ish years it feels. What was happening then, oh yes, the decline of my metabolism. I had proudly told my husband-to-be that back when I was twenty, I could eat a pizza by myself and not have any weight gain.
It’s okay, even I scoff at myself in that memory now.
But it’s likely that there was a portion of that freewheeling optimism, or rose-colored hindsight, left that gave the study this result - that nearly 83 percent of those millennials studied considered themselves in good health. My somewhat cynical present-day take on that however is that it’s likely they’re in good health because they have no choice not to be in “good health.”
Last year, I went into the hospital for two days after a visit at a free-standing emergency room. I had pushed off all symptoms until a symptom popped up that my internet medical self-doctoring described as ER-worthy. Even then I still called the free nurseline first who told me the same thing - get to a hospital you fool. And... I still called my husband and Mom to consult the situation, who both told me to just go. But had kept stopping me was knowing that if it was nothing, I’d still get to likely have to pay a hefty bill.
So instead of focusing on my health, I bargained with the ER to let my husband drive me to the hospital. The doctor argued with me, asking why; I flat out told him I had bottom-of-the-barrel insurance.
While thankfully I’ve been able to take part in the Affordable Care Act, my husband and I consider it insurance only against catastrophic events. Even that day, when it was evident that I should probably worry more about myself than the money, I joined the ranks of those who are insured, kinda sorta, but really aren’t.
The bill, where I spent two nights with an infusion of miracle drugs that seemed to patch up what happened internally, but where I didn’t have any actual procedures done, turned out to be more than the cost of my car loan. After explaining the situation, and paying with a credit card, the hospital got knocked down the bill to a seemingly arbitrary lower amount.
And of course, I got the bill from the doctor who saw me at the ER for 15 minutes, who turns out was not in contract with my insurance but that wasn’t something I could control or vet when I came in. For him, I’ve decided to only pay a small negotiated sum every month as insurance that he should stay in cahoots with the universe to keep me alive if he wants to get fully paid.
My story isn’t an anomaly; it’s increasingly the norm and a framework of fear for daily life that not just my generation faces. But, as millennials untether themselves from the norm of the traditional careers that had good benefits and seek to create a society with different options that include flexibility and maybe even that mythical work-life balance, they perhaps won’t be as tethered to the idea that we’re doing it right with our healthcare.
Oh, and last fun side note of that study: The number one health condition affecting millennials is major depression.
Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/Mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma, and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She can be contacted at email@example.com.