Young woman trying on glasses

The Value of Offering Voluntary Vision Plans

Offering voluntary vision as part of an employee benefits package can help improve employees’ lives, increase access to quality vision care and reduce associated health costs. Access to vision benefits is an important factor in access to vision care for many Americans.

The Importance of an Eye Exam

There are two primary types of eye exams. One is a visual acuity test, which measures how well the patient can see. The other is a comprehensive eye examination, which medically identifies what conditions might be affecting a patient’s vision, how much their vision is being affected and why their vision is being affected.

Visual Acuity Tests

Visual acuity tests assess reading capacity of a patient’s eyes from a given distance. The patient will read text of different sizes in gradually descending order, first with both eyes open, then while covering one eye, then the other. 

Vision acuity tests may be given by an eye care professional responsible for prescribing optical lenses. They will provide repeated tests substituting different types of lenses for each eye until the appropriate powers are identified. They may also supplement with a machine test to approximate eye power, and do a measurement to identify how far apart the eye centers are for accurate curvature of lenses. 

These components of eye examinations check for the visual function for near vision as well as distance vision. For most younger people, a basic visual acuity screening can identify if and when they will need to start using corrective lenses to improve their vision. It can also be conducted to periodically indicate corrections needed based on improvement or deterioration of the patient’s visual function over the years.

In addition to near-sightedness and far-sightedness, the two issues most readily apparent during a visual acuity test, eye care professionals will also look for any other ocular symptoms, identifying the patient’s requirement of cylindrical power and providing data on the level of astigmatism present, if any.

Sadly, many patients who don’t wear corrective lenses don’t think about needing vision care at all, despite the fact that underlying eye problems can degenerate for quite some time before issues with vision are noticed. That’s why it is important to also receive regular comprehensive eye exams conducted by a qualified eye care professional such as an ophthalmologist.

Comprehensive Eye Exams

In contrast to a routine visual acuity test, a full eye examination covers the deeper aspects of visual function. Eye conditions that can contribute to deteriorating visual accuracy, vision loss, or blindness can be caught early with regular eye exams, and many other health conditions that result in eye symptoms may also be detected early thanks to a routine eye exam.

A comprehensive eye exam starts with a visual examination of each eye using a bright light and magnifier. Common conditions which can be readily identified include:

  • Retinal detachment
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataract development
  • Macular degeneration

Visual disturbances caused by fluid in the ocular tissues may be caused by other systemic health conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension. Central retinal artery occlusion can be a warning sign of other vascular issues.

A comprehensive eye exam can provide an early predictor of Parkinson’s dementia, and examination of internal structures of the eye can lead to diagnosis and proactive management of blood sugar or blood pressure, staving off life threatening events such as a potential stroke.

The Connection between Vision Benefits and Early Prevention and Detection

It is estimated that 75% of cases of blindness are preventable if identified in time. Thorough examination of lens, retina, and optic nerve are vital parts of a regular full eye check-up, and can allow intervention to counteract or reverse the effects of cataracts, glaucoma, macular edema, retinopathy, and refractive error.

To help identify preventable eye diseases, eye exams should be scheduled on average every two years for otherwise healthy adults. Patients with heightened risk for eye issues, such as diabetics, may need annual visits, as should seniors and individuals who work in occupations with enhanced risk to their vision.

Patients with vision benefits are far more likely to get regular eye checkups, and benefit from early prevention or early detection of common eye diseases. Surveys done of insured vs. uninsured persons revealed that people with vision benefits were three to four times more likely to access “frequent vision care” meaning they saw an eye health professional at least once a year or every other year.

Based on the results from which our Vision Wellness Study Infographic was drawn, access to vision care has a high impact on enhancing peoples’ overall satisfaction with their total health, but nearly two out of five consumers say cost/affordability is the reason why household members do not see an eye doctor as often as they would like to.

Why Offer Voluntary Benefits?

Providing an ancillary vision plan that can be offered as a voluntary payroll deduction gives employees flexibility. They may be more likely to enroll in a plan with a low monthly deduction compared to getting an independent plan. Voluntary benefit plans provided to employers may also be more robust than independent plans when it comes to pricing, network size and variety, and this value can be passed on to workers.

By making vision care voluntary, health plans make it possible for employers to offer employees more choice and independence. Workers can select services they really need, meaning they won’t end up paying for coverage left on the table if insured additionally through a spouse or another job.

However, vision is important enough that even when it is offered as a voluntary benefit instead of bundled with main medical and/or dental, employees see it as a definite perk. This is due to the fact that vision has not yet reached parity with medical and dental coverage. The payroll deduction is typically small enough that it is seen as a low cost, high value benefit by both employers and workers.

Vision as a Less Expensive Way to Enhance Benefit Offering

Adding vision as a voluntary or bundled offering lets you help employers raise the overall perception of their compensation and benefits package. This allows them to participate in a competitive market for top talent that will expect additional perks and robust offerings.   

Adding vision care to any benefit plan can help businesses attract and retain high-value employees, and help safeguard their overall health. Making vision voluntary allows employers to be flexible in their offerings while delivering maximum value to their workforce.


© 2021 Versant Health Holdco.

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