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4 Eye-Opening Reasons to Offer Vision Care Coverage

Vision care eye exam

Quick look: Eye health is incredibly important – nearly three-quarters of American adults require vision correction, and routine eye exams can help detect health conditions before they become serious. However, approximately half of people in the United States aren’t enrolled in a vision plan, and the racial and socioeconomic discrepancies in vision coverage are alarming. Here’s what brokers need to know about vision care and how offering it can benefit their clients and society.

While many health plans include a vision care offering, the opportunities it can present to brokers may be surprising. Over 75% of the U.S. adult population requires some sort of vision correction, yet almost the same percentage of people aren’t enrolled in any vision benefit. Let’s explore how brokers can help close that gap, while also enabling small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to lower their costs, attract and retain talent, and contribute to overall diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

The ins and outs of vision care

Vision care is a common offering, but what exactly does it include and not include?

To decipher this, it’s important to understand the difference between an optometrist (OD) and an ophthalmologist (MD):

  • An OD take care of all the “basics” – they examine, diagnose, and treat eyes, and assist patients who need contacts or glasses. They also act as a first stop in treating uncomplicated eye conditions.
  • Specializing in more complicated conditions, an MD is a medical doctor who performs medical and surgical interventions for all eye conditions. MDs perform operations like cataract and glaucoma surgery and treat complex eye conditions.

Vision care typically covers an annual visit with an OD and acts as a first line of defense to discover the first signs of any underlying eye conditions. Health insurance plans normally don’t cover preventative vision care, making supplemental or standalone vision plans a must. Without a vision plan in place, people are faced with either paying out-of-pocket or avoiding receiving care altogether – a potentially costly and dangerous action.

It’s important to remember is that eye surgery or specialty care received from an MD typically isn’t covered by vision care, but instead by health insurance. In fact, ideally the two coverages combine to provide patients a comprehensive solution for any eye health problem they may face.

Who has vision care – and who doesn’t?

In many states, vision care costs only about $15 per person – or $38 per family – each month, but unfortunately many people don’t have coverage. Nearly half of Americans aren’t enrolled in a vision plan, meaning they must pay out-of-pocket for routine eye exams (something that can cost between $50-250 per person, each year). This cost can add up, especially for families, and roughly 40% of adults who don’t get annual eye exams claim cost and lack of insurance as the primary reasons why.

However, just because millions of people lack vision coverage doesn’t mean they don’t value it. In fact, the opposite appears to be true – 93% of people say vision care benefits are somewhat or very important to them. This discrepancy creates an opportunity for brokers to offer a highly sought-after benefit to the people who want it most.

The benefits of vision care are crystal clear

Eye health is important, but the benefits of vision care coverage extend well beyond that. Here are four potentially unexpected ways it can benefit both individuals and society as a whole.

1. Improve quality of life

If you wear contacts or glasses, you’ve probably experienced how frustrating it is to squint to see everything around you. Vision care helps people avoid this pain point – and many more – by receiving affordable access to ODs at all times.

And frustration isn’t the only hindrance poor eye health can cause. Dry eyes and eye strain – and of course, more serious eye conditions – contribute to headaches, itching, back and neck soreness, and light sensitivity.

The pandemic, which caused many people to spend even more time in front of screens, has only intensified these issues. A recent survey found that four in five Americans are more concerned about protecting their eyes than before the pandemic, and approximately a quarter say their eyes feel worse due to increased screen time. Brokers can combat this trend by offering affordable vision care to their SMB clients.

2. Drive down costs

Here’s a tough pill to swallow: poor health costs the U.S. economy $3.2 trillion a year. But preventative eye care covered by a vision plan can help by discovering chronic health conditions, like diabetes.

Diagnosed diabetes alone costs the country more than $300 billion per year. What’s more, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 7.3 million Americans have undiagnosed diabetes, and that 84% of the 88 million of those who have prediabetes are unaware of it.

The savings also extend to employers. According to an American Optometric Association whitepaper, uncorrected refractive errors result in $202 billion in lost productivity each year, and a lack of proper vision correction results in increased workers’ compensation claims. A low-cost benefit with a potentially high return on investment (ROI), the Association also found that employers typically recover $7 in increased productivity for every $1 they spend on vision care plans.

3. Contribute to DEI

Offering vision care as part of a benefits package to clients can contribute to overall societal DEI efforts.

Unfortunately, those who already are in poor health and a lower socioeconomic status are more likely not to have vision coverage. For example, those who rely on Medicaid (typically low-income individuals and families) can have trouble booking appointments as they don’t have private insurance, and many eye practices don’t accept Medicaid.

The disparities extend to race as well – a recent study in the scientific journal Ophthalmology found that white Medicaid members were 200% less likely to receive a glaucoma test than those with private health insurance, and Black Medicaid members were 300% less likely.

Brokers can help level this playing field by including an affordable, high-quality vision care plan in their benefit offerings.

4. Attract and retain top talent

The Great Resignation seems to make headlines every day. The labor market is tumultuous, and SMB employers constantly search for ways to differentiate themselves. Vision care can help do just that – especially in a post-pandemic world.

An incredible 75% of employees state that access to health benefits, including vision care, is more important to them post-COVID-19, and 90% of Americans believe it’s essential to take care of their vision.

Offering a vision plan can also help SMB employers tailor their benefits packages for a multigenerational workforce. For example, it can help aging employees receive screenings for age-related eye diseases like macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts. It also helps families provide their children with any necessary vision correction, like glasses or contacts.

See more clearly with a PEO

It’s easy to see how vision care can benefit all – from an employee avoiding a headache at work, to an SMB boosting its competitiveness and cost efficiency, to leveling the racial and socioeconomic healthcare playing field.

Partnering with a professional employer organization (PEO) can allow brokers to offer cost-effective and quality vision care plans to their clients, which helps them acquire and retain top talent and experience a higher ROI.

The right professional employer organization (PEO) can equip brokers with vision care plans and beyond by providing a wide range of Fortune 500-level employee benefits like:

  • Health insurance, including vision and dental care
  • 401(k) retirement plans
  • Student loan repayment programs
  • Family-forming support
  • And more

The right benefits empower employees and strengthen your book of business. Contact the experts at ExtensisHR to explore how we can help you grow.

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