Growing up with racism and discrimination as taboo, millennials – the generation that came of age at the turn of the century – are tolerant, open-minded, and they embrace diversity. They grew up being told that they are ‘special’, the MVP, and they always received a trophy even if they came in last. As a result, they have an aura of entitlement. Given their ‘me first’ nature, there has been a resurgence of libertarian values, which are typically pro-laissez-faire capitalism, pro-liberty, and anti-governmental intervention, among millennials.
However, healthcare in Canada is a publically-funded, socialist system that treats everyone the same, where no one is special, and everyone has to wait their turn. Considering that millennials were raised to be selfish, grew up getting what they want, when they want it, why would they tolerate a system where they aren’t the centre of attention?
As Dr. Jean M. Twenge said in her book Generation Me, millennials have high expectations about themselves. They expect to be rich and even famous. However, when these goals are not realized or when they don’t get what they want, millennials often become cynical, depressed, and anxious.
To keep the millennials happy, many of the social institutions that we have come to know have been revolutionized. The education industry has been completely turned upside down through the advent of MOOCs (massive open online courses). At work, millennials don’t like to start at the bottom and work their way up like previous generations. They want to start at the top. Employers have had to change how they attract millennials and keep them interested through flexible working arrangements, satellite offices, and sabbaticals.
Given the revolutionary changes that millennials demand, what will happen, over time, when these citizens start to use, heavily, the healthcare system?
As we know, the Canadian healthcare system offers all citizens, rich and poor, free access to basic healthcare. Regardless of the amount of tax an individual pays, everyone is treated as equal. Although a fairly adequate system that offers basic medical care, we have all heard the horror stories of people waiting over 12 months to see specialists, six months for MRIs, and even, in the extreme, people dying on waiting lists to receive specialist care. The costs are also soaring. In 2015, the healthcare costs were approximately $141 billion. Even if citizens have the money to pay for faster, private care, we cannot get it in this country. We have to travel abroad.
Millennials are certainly not used to being treated as anything but special. They have been handled with kid gloves their entire lives. They certainly don’t want to wait for anything, let alone months for urgent healthcare. Given their selfish nature, the high-earning and, thus, highly-taxed millennials, will surely be offended if they are treated the same as those who pay less taxes.
It seems that the philosophy of the healthcare system and that of the millennials are at opposing ends of the ideological spectrum. Considering that the millennials already make up roughly the same proportion of the voting-age population as the Baby Boomer generation, will they usher in social reform to the Canadian healthcare system?
A way forward: A hybrid model
Of course the common argument is that our healthcare system could be worse – it could be like the healthcare system in one of the poorest countries on the planet. However, why should we compare ourselves to the worst when we should be comparing ourselves to the best? Although Canada has been voted the best country on the planet by millennials, we can still improve.
Perhaps we could reconcile this need for improvement by implementing a similar hybrid healthcare model in Canada like they have in Germany, for example. The German healthcare model involves: (1) private healthcare for those that work and have insurance and (2) public universal healthcare for those who don’t. In the private model, there is better service with significantly reduced wait times. For a minor shoulder operation, I waited three days to see an orthopedic surgeon that performs surgeries for professional football players in the Bundesliga. The wait time for an MRI was 10 days and the surgery was performed two weeks later. In Canada, the wait time to see an orthopedic surgeon can be six months, three months for an MRI, and another six months for the surgery to be performed. At least with a hybrid system, citizens have the option of paying for their own care as opposed to, in the extreme, dying on waiting lists. Maybe through this or similar changes, Canada might reflect its status as one of the best countries in the world as opposed to a socialist country with rationed healthcare.
Dr. Jeffrey Overall is an assistant professor at the Nipissing University School of Business where he teaches entrepreneurship and strategy courses. Prior to this, he held professorships at Ryerson University and the University of Hanover, Germany. He also taught at the St. Petersburg Polytechnical University in Russia and at the University of Bradford in the UK. Dr. Overall has over 18 years of experience working directly with entrepreneurs within start-ups and SMEs across various sectors and countries.