A Millennial's Guide To Healthcare
Guest post by Dayton Uttinger
Like most Millennials, my relationship with hospitals is iffy at best. I have become an innovator of self-administered health care.I’ve hacked out clumps of mucus of suspicious color and size. I’ve taped sprained fingers together. I sliced my leg open with a beer bottle, deep enough to see muscle, and opted to butterfly the gash instead of stitches. If I never went to the hospital, it couldn’t be that serious, so nothing could be wrong with me in the first place, right?
That logic only held up for so long. For a klutz that engages in contact sports, it’s surprisingly not bruises or broken limbs that finally push me through the hospital doors, but my friend. I couldn’t deny symptoms when I could see them from the outside. Despite vomiting all day, dehydration, and strange bumps across her skin, she refused to go. This is typical of our generation. We are not natives to the healthcare system, no matter how much we should be, so this leaves us in a precarious place when we actually have to walk (or roll) through those automatic doors. So whether you’re trying to convince your friend or yourself, it’s important to recognize these steps.
Admitting You Have a Problem
Even though people constantly accuse Millennials of being dramatic over their own problems, we are remarkably reluctant to visit the doctor. However, gauze and Neosporin aren’t always enough. It can be easy enough to figure that a cut needs to be held together or that a sprain should be iced, but more chronic problems require a doctor’s expertise. While you might think Google has all the answers, many common ailments share symptoms with STIs or serious internal issues, and if you’re not a doctor, you don’t know what to look for. Still, that’s not always enough to convince us that a professional is needed.
However, we are much better at recognizing when a friend needs help. I hounded my friend until she agreed to go to the ER, but I can’t honestly say that I would’ve been much better. But perhaps this should be the litmus test- if you would advise a friend to seek medical attention with the same symptom or injury, you ought to do so as well. Sort of a reverse of the golden rule, but just as important.
Here’s the real reason most of us have problem admitting we need medical attention: we don’t want to pay for it. Some of us might have a completely unreasonable sense of pride standing in the way (guilty), but for the vast majority of Millennials, we can’t justify the cost. We’d rather suffer through another week of cold symptoms (it’s been two months, but it’s still just a cold, I promise, Mom) than fork over money for a doctor’s visit.
In fact, many of us refuse to pay premiums altogether. Even after Obamacare, Millennials are having a difficult time justifying health insurance. So we maintain our pocketbooks at the expense of our health. However, it doesn’t have to be like that: there are free clinics, reduced costs, payment plans, etc. My sister qualified to have the cost of her surgery nearly erased. You have to be your own advocate and do the research to see what you qualify for, because it’ll depend on that hospital and state you’re in. If it’s an emergency, leave negotiating until after the fact, because you don’t want to bleed out in the ER asking how much an IV drip is. At the end of the day, your life is worth more than any hospital bill.
Okay, but sentiment doesn’t help you now. I mean, probably not now, I hope you’ve found a better, more concise guide to healthcare if you’re on your way to the ER right now, but maybe not. If that’s the case, realize that there’s been a lot of changes to healthcare since the Affordable Care Act came into play. It’s important to understand how this affects you. You’ve probably already heard the tidbit about remaining on your parents’ health insurance until you’re 26, but you’ll turn 27 before you know it. Be savvy with insurance. Know what a deductible is, and how much your copay is. Because it’s your responsibility now. Yes, now.
Where to Go?
Alright, so I already mentioned free clinics. There’s your first stop. But maybe the closest is too far away, or maybe your medical problem can’t wait until the next clinic doctor is available. The ER is the only option, right?
That’s what I believed for far too long. I didn’t realize that urgent care centers are definitely a thing. Instead of hauling yourself to the ER, consider going to an urgent care center instead, since they’ll be less wait and cost. Luckily, insurance companies have devised the Prudent Layperson Standard to determine if the emergency room is necessary. And while they made it to get out of paying for your bill, you can use it to determine if your medical emergency necessitates a visit to the ER. Basically, if the average person would believe that your injury or ailment could lead to death or severe organ injury, then to the ER you go. Otherwise, for things like getting stitches, minor infections, or UTIs, urgent care will do.
This is yet another area where Millennials fall short. We believe we’re invincible, or maybe we just don’t think it’s going to happen to us. Either way, we don’t have the greatest track record when it comes to making healthy choices. We aren’t consuming enough micronutrients (23% of women lack iron) and maybe too many carbohydrates.
We need to make sure that we’re getting enough exercise and eating right- the same advice that has been parroted to us since kindergarden. Only now, we have to enforce limits on ourselves. Even if you only have a few minutes before you have to rush off to work, there’s still plenty of stellar workouts you can do. You just have to make sure to budget your time. Again, the same advice that we’ve been getting forever- who knew it’d be actually beneficial to follow it?
Our moms did. Our coaches did. That neighbor across the street that judges you as he sprints by your house and looks through your window to only to see that Netflix is still on- he knows. So do you. Despite what older generations say, Millennials can totally take care of themselves. We might need some help sometimes, but that’s what Google (and doctors) are for.
| About The Author |
Dayton socializes for a living and writes for fun. Her rarely relevant degree gives her experience in political science, writing, Spanish, rugby, theater, coding, and spreading herself too thin. She will forever be a prisoner of her family's business, doomed to inherit responsibility despite frequent existential protests.