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The Clear Benefit of Vision Coverage

July 1, 2023

Essential part of whole-person health

Published by California Broker Magazine

A few years ago, I was presenting to a group of brokers about the importance of ocular health. During the presentation, I could see one of the audience members becoming emotional and visibly upset. When I opened the floor for questions, he raised his hand to share his personal story. The previous year, he had gone in for his regular eye exam and his doctor had noticed something in his right eye that was concerning. Less than 24 hours later, this broker had a quadruple bypass to address severe coronary blockages that could have led to a heart attack. Prior to his eye exam, he had no obvious symptoms that would have caused him to see his primary care physician or visit an urgent care. He was convinced his eye doctor had saved his life. He wanted to impress upon his colleagues the importance of including eye health in overall wellness for themselves and for their clients.

It’s tempting to think of vision coverage as an extra, but employers and employees should approach vision care as an essential part of whole-person health. Costly medical issues, such as diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis can be identified through regular vision exams. Identifying and treating these medical issues early can help control long-term costs and make it less likely that an employee will need to take extended time off for invasive treatments and recovery.

As the U.S. population ages, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates the number of blind and visually impaired people will double by 2030. That number is expected to triple by 2050 — an economic cost of $373 billion.

One way to significantly reduce those numbers is for employers to offer vision plans that encourage employees and their families to view vision care as part of their overall health and wellness efforts.

Starting the conversation about vision

Ancillary products — like vision — have clear benefits for both employers and employees. But brokers are sometimes hesitant to upsell. In this labor market, it’s worth remembering that current and prospective employees are looking for well-rounded benefits options, whether their employers are thinking about that or not. 

Don’t wait for your clients to approach you and ask about what’s possible. Look for ways to initiate conversations about vision and ancillary offerings. Here are some ways to approach those conversations proactively.

View benefits as an extension of culture

Employers of choice are emphasizing company cultures that recognize employees as whole people with concerns, priorities, and responsibilities outside of work. This is something employers can address directly through benefits. By giving workers more options to choose from and by making it easier for them to prepare for emergencies and protect their families, employers can demonstrate their commitment to caring for employees.

Ancillary products can lower costs for other health plans

Many insurance carriers will provide discounts to employers offering different lines of coverage. This helps employers offer a better and more comprehensive range of benefits, while keeping costs manageable. Carrier discounts can level the playing field for small businesses, allowing them to offer the big business benefits that employees are looking for — improving retention and attracting new talent.

Untreated vision problems lead to long-term issues

According to the CDC, more than 12 million Americans over the age of 40 have impaired vision, including 8 million whose impairment is uncorrected. Depending on the severity of the impairment, uncorrected vision in the workplace can create safety hazards when operating machinery, driving, or moving around the workspace. In children who are still developing, untreated vision issues can lead to permanent vision problems and negatively impact their ability to learn.

Vision coverage can help employees develop relationships with eye specialists

While many employees with vision coverage are thinking primarily about their need for glasses and contacts, vision coverage can be helpful in establishing a relationship with an eye care professional. In addition to vision screenings and corrections, optometrists and ophthalmologists have advanced medical training and are able to perform medical procedures and write prescriptions for medication. Sudden or unusual changes in vision can be the result of infection, which needs to be diagnosed and treated quickly to avoid scarring and permanent vision loss. An existing relationship with an eye care specialist can make it easier for employees to address these unexpected eye health issues. 

Meet employees where they are

One continuing effect of the pandemic is employees’ desire to fully understand their healthcare benefits and options. Previously, many employees approached benefits enrollment as an action item to complete. Once they had selected a healthcare plan, they simply re-enrolled every year without evaluating other options available to them. Today, employees bring a consumer mindset to their benefits. They expect to shop for the best options to meet their current needs, customizing their traditional benefits with ancillary options to address the specifics of their lives. Not every employee will elect vision care, but those who want it expect to have the option.

Be a trusted advisor

As a benefits broker, you have access to knowledge, trends, and solutions that your clients need — even if they don’t know what to ask. By proactively starting the conversation about ancillary products like vision, you can help employers better understand the needs and expectations of their employees and identify cost-effective solutions to meet those needs. Employers who are able to provide well-rounded benefits options are better positioned to win the war for talent — and to look to you year after year to keep their benefits offerings competitive.