Booming Field Winning Sharper Focus In Marketplace
It has been said that an idea, to be suggestive, must come to the individual with the force of revelation. And so, some 30 years after first appearing in the marketplace, an ever-growing number of marketers are focusing, some for the first time, on the booming field of vision care.
This evolution to a conclusion that vision could be, and often is, the right peripheral product at the right time to add to portfolio isn’t, upon reflection, surprising. With no pun intended, one eyewitness is of more weight than 10 hearsays.
What we’re witnessing, in the aftermath of the demise or delay of health care reform, are the winds of change. We’re seeing a rekindled amount of interest in health-related plans, in the offering of ancillary products. And right there, as it long has been—but now moving up fast in popularity—is vision care.
The irony within this phenomenon is that vision care—much like dental care—was rarely, if ever, mentioned for inclusion in the pounds of health care reform packages that were weighed and discarded on Capitol Hill. So, reform or not, vision stands independently—as it always has and probably always will—as an attractive offering to a waiting and growing marketplace.
With certainty, vision care is not only an ideal add-on for seasoned agents and brokers to look into and then offer but, in fact, it’s a marketable commodity for the younger agent or broker. The coverage not only has mass appeal to current clients and prospects for veteran marketers to promote and provide…but it can—and often has—served as an effective door-opener for newer agents and brokers.
The current marketing penetration for vision care is less than 35 percent among the labor force, less than 25 percent among the U.S. population. This is a product/service that, due to overwhelming need, is ideal to present to employers and affinity groups, and it uniquely fits within the preferred provide organization (PPO) concept.
The overwhelming need is also linked to these facts:
• Of the some 150 million people in the U.S. workforce 17 years and older, nearly 64 percent of them wear eyeglasses or contact lenses.
• Some $3 billion is spent annually on eye examinations.
• It is estimated that vision care expenditures will increase 10 to 12 percent per year through the year 2010.
Related, the word is spreading that vision care is an important component in any wellness program. Proper eye care can help detect early signs of health-robbing and costly problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and glaucoma.
Further related, as organizations reduce many primary benefits, they have discovered that vision care is a low-cost, ancillary benefit that can be a true value for any program. In the written scenario just rendered, what has been described is the majority of the waiting vision care marketplace. Specifically, nearly 76 million people were born in this country between 1946 and 1964. Today, those individuals—the “baby boom generation”—are in their middle years, and the majority is experiencing the need for vision care and corrective eyewear.
What’s needed, and what organizations such as our provides, is a way to help small businesses and large organizations offer their employees a cost-effective system that makes vision care products and services affordable to all.
Today, vision care benefits come in various shapes and prices. So, it naturally follows that it’s initially important for those considering marketing the product to determine the needs and budgetary considerations of the client. Then the most appropriate plan can be tailored to the client.
Eye On Cost
And, with the eye on cost containment that virtually all employers have, the sales/marketing emphasis should focus on the cited facts that most employees wear or are in need of corrective lenses, and the vision care plan being offered will not only prove extremely beneficial to them, but save them money. Such a statement, based upon our experience, will usually draw the immediate and undivided attention of your client/prospect.
Also on the cost containment front, some vision care organizations and specialty vision PPOs have proven up-to-the-task in keeping clients costs below general and health care inflationary trends. And a broad spectrum of benefit designs have been created to meet the individual and group needs of a broad range—small, mid-sized, large—of clients.
Whatever their size, the overwhelming majority of the clients and prospects represent organizations with most, if not all of their employees spending most of their work days, day in and day out, in front of a computer screen. Whether or not they currently wear corrective lenses, they can, through vision care benefits, be afforded the opportunity to see a qualified eye professional, a person who can provide helpful hints to minimize eyestrain.
Innovations through the years in the vision care benefits field include discount card access plans, which have grown dramatically. Typically, such plans allow the member/employee to realize substantial savings on frames, eyeglasses, and contact leases. And, because there is no risk transfer or insurance element, the cost is extremely low: $6 to $12 per year per employee.
This type of plan, which is simple to install and easy to administer, has proven very popular with employers who want to install a “first generation” vision eye plan for their employees.
Related, vision care networks are, of course, mandatory in order to support large volume over a broad geographic base. As an example, our organization, which is a PPO, has over 6,000 independent optometrists under contract servicing over 3.5 million members in Preferred Vision Care and Preferred Vision Plus plans throughout the nation.
Those enrolled in the plans pay wholesale costs for eyeglasses and extras (tinting, scratch, or anti-reflective coatings) and save a minimum of 20 percent on contact lenses and other sundries; for example, solutions and cases. Plan members may present their Preferred Vision Card at any location listed on a furnished directory of providers.
And, directly linked to insurers, employers and associations adding vision benefits at an ever-growing rate, sophisticated infrastructures are in place which have been designed to accommodate larger user-bases.
What we’re also seeing on the vision care front is the emergence of many regionalized hospital and physician-based groups as providers. That’s because, as indicated, the market is broad and remains relatively untouched. So, most probably, this momentum will continue for an undetermined period of time. However, when and if such organizations consider going national, they’ll quickly find the challenges to be much greater.
Bottom line, the thriving vision care marketplace is something you may want to look into… before your competitors do.