Vision Plans: Inexpensive and Effective

Vision - glasses and chartAccording to the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Compensation Survey, only 25 percent of workers have access to employer-provided vision care benefits. Employers that fail to offer vision benefits due to cost could be making a mistake, however, since vision benefits have big payoffs in terms of improved health and productivity.

Companies that offer vision care are reaping a number of benefits, starting with productivity. Vision disorders can result in a marked decrease in productivity, costing businesses an estimated $8 billion annually, according to a report released by the Vision Council of America (VCA). The report also found that an estimated 11 million Americans have uncorrected vision problems, ranging from refractive errors (near- or far-sightedness) to sight-threatening diseases such as glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration. Nearly 90 percent of those who use a computer at least three hours a day suffer vision problems associated with computer related eye strain. Many types of employees, including engineers, construction workers, stockbrokers, software developers, accountants and administrative assistants, have a high risk of developing vision problems that affect their work performance. Another study cited in the Journal of the American Optometric Association found that in the presence of very little visual degradation, such as glare on a monitor, employees show an efficiency decline of four percent to 19 percent in accomplishing standard tasks.            

Types of Coverage

Vision coverage typically comes in the form of either a vision insurance plan or a discount vision plan. Typically, a vision insurance plan provides enrollees eye care services in exchange for an annual premium or membership fee, a yearly deductible for each enrolled member, and a co-pay each time a member accesses a service. A discount vision plan provides eye care at discounted rates after the employer or employee pays an annual membership fee. Both kinds of vision benefits can be designed to meet the requirements of a wide range of businesses, including small- and medium-sized businesses, nonprofits, school districts and unions. Vision insurance generally covers the following basic services:

  • Annual eye examinations, including dilation
  • Eyeglass frames
  • Eyeglass lenses
  • Contact lenses
  • LASIK and PRK vision correction at discounted rates

Vision insurance costs vary for employers, depending on the size of the company and how the program is designed. Monthly premiums typically range from $15-$25, depending on the type of plan and benefits provided. As with nearly all medical plans, covered individuals will have a small annual deductible and copayment whenever they use covered services. Vision discount plans typically cost less—as little as $5 or $6 per person per month. They usually do not have deductibles or copayments, but offer a flat discount off the cost of vision care services. Since they are not insurance and providers do not have contracts with discount plans, a vision care provider could refuse to accept your discount plan at any time.          

Getting Started

  •   Start by asking your medical benefits provider if it offers vision care coverage as an option in any of its plans. If not, we can find a plan directly through a specialty vision insurance carrier.
  •   Ask your employees if they’d be interested in vision insurance, and gauge their willingness to contribute to the cost. Talk about their recent and estimated future vision care needs, their costs and the amount they would hope to save with a vision benefits plan.
  •   Analyze your organization’s needs and compare available vision care benefit options. Look for convenient access to optometrists and ophthalmologists, likely savings for your employees, overall user friendliness of the plan and cost to your employees and/or your company.
  •   Solicit preliminary proposals and select the plan that best meets your criteria. Decide what portion the employer will pay and what portion employees will pay.
  •   Provide employees with a summary plan description and information on costs. Don’t forget to sell the benefits of the plan to ensure maximum participation. Consider Employee-Paid Voluntary Vision Plans

Employers can also offer vision benefits on a voluntary, employee-paid basis. Employees get the advantages of group rates and convenient payroll deduction payment, plus the financial security of knowing their vision needs will be covered. Employers simply provide payroll deduction services; we can handle plan selection, enrollment and administration.

Vision Plan Factoids

  • Employers can gain up to $7 for every $1 invested in vision coverage
  • More than eight out of 10 consumers say they would be interested in a vision plan
  • Half of all people with diabetes do not know they have it. Diabetes mellitus is the leading cause of legal blindness in the U.S. today
  • By age 65, one in three seniors will have a vision-impairing eye disease
  • Premium vision benefits generally cost less than $100 per employee per year, versus about $6,000 for single-only medical coverage

Source: National Association of Vision Care Plans

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