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Making Vision a Priority in Health Plans

The majority of broad scope health plans have a vision product. However, vision care may not always receive the attention and consideration from health plan decision-makers that it should. Vision is a critical point of care, as one aspect of health most likely to directly affect a health plan member’s everyday life, from birth to old age.

The Vision Lifecycle

Vision care starts at birth, as one of the first services provided to a newborn. Antibiotics ointment or drops are applied within minutes of birth to prevent bacterial infections that can cause blindness. The need for vision care continues throughout an individual’s life, through childhood and adolescence into adulthood and senior years.

Childhood

As children grow, eye care must be a priority. It’s estimated that 1 out of 10 preschoolers and 1 out of 4 children in grades K-6 have vision deficiencies. Children need regular vision screening and eye exams, as well as corrective lenses if necessary to correct refractive error.

Poor vision can result in poor performance at school, which can be written off as behavioral issues or wrongly diagnosed as a learning disorder. Children with learning disorders often have visual impairment as well, and thus are particularly in need of childhood vision screening services.

Adolescence

As teenagers mature and engage in sports activities, or eagerly anticipate passing their driving test, eye issues can directly impact quality of life. A total of 1 out of 15 American children under the age of 18 have a diagnosed eye and vision condition, but 1 out of 4 adolescents with refractive error don’t have adequate access to vision care.

As teens get older, the risk of anxiety and depression related to poor eyesight increases. Access to vision care, including the option for contact lenses, can help contribute to better mental, emotional and physical health for older adolescents and teens.

Adulthood

Vision disability is one of the top 10 disabilities among adults 18 years and older. Failing or impaired vision can make it difficult for sighted adults to maintain employment, drive themselves to work and care for their families. The annual economic impact of major vision problems among the adult population 40 years and older is more than $145 billion.

An estimated 93 million American adults are at high risk for serious vision loss, but only half of American adults have visited an eye doctor in the past 12 months. One of the most prevalent causes of blindness is diabetes, but diabetes-related blindness can be prevented in as many as 9 out of 10 cases. It is anticipated that without intervention, the population of people 45 years of age and older who are blind or suffer vision impairment will double by 2030.

Senior years

Aging causes vision issues to appear or advance even more rapidly. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have cataracts or have had cataract surgery, and 92% of older adults enrolled in Medicare use eyeglasses. The need for vision care doesn’t lessen with age; rather, it becomes even more vital.

Many seniors seek to live healthier lifestyles due to a health diagnosis, have multiple medications to take, and see several different specialists on a routine basis for medical care. Without good vision, they can find it difficult or impossible to exercise safely, evaluate good food purchases and cook for themselves, read prescription medication labels or drive to their doctor appointments.

Good Vision Can Be Critical for a Good Life

Health plan decision-makers should carefully consider how vision affects the day-to-day lives of their members, and provide robust vision offerings that serve the needs of those members across all age demographics.

By making vision care offerings a priority, overall member health costs can be reduced and some permanently disabling conditions can be prevented.

A solid approach to vision care benefits leans heavily on access to preventive care, lowering out-of-pocket costs to encourage members to take full advantage of eye exams and corrective lenses. Regular vision screenings can pick up on conditions like glaucoma or retinopathy, which, if caught early, can be treated to help stop the progression of disease and/or sight loss.

High-quality, comprehensive vision plans help individuals to become more engaged with their eye health, which benefits their overall health and productivity. Versant delivers vision care plan options designed to support the entire vision lifecycle.

References:

© 2021 Versant Health Holdco.

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