Focus On Vision Care Reveals Large, Relatively Unexplored Market
As you begin to read this article, the odds are you’re doing so with the aid of eyeglasses. That’s because 64 percent of our nation’s working populace over the age of 17 wear corrective lenses, and the percentage of the growing number of retired seniors who do so is even higher.
Coast to coast, all signs point to an increasing number of people sooner or later being in need of eye care. This could be due to the immense amount of time many of us spend daily before the computer screen. But, with certainty, one of the major reasons for the rising need is that when people reach middle age, many of them become farsighted.
Therein, more than ever, is the need to offer vision care benefits. This often overlooked market is just waiting to be filled. And that’s because the current marketing penetration for vision is less than 25 percent among the U.S. populace, and less than 35 percent among the nation’s labor force. Now, add to these facts that vision is a needed and low cost benefit, and considerable sales opportunities begin to appear.
As employers continue to slice benefits, what enterprising brokers and agents have often found is that many of those same employers aren’t shutting the door on all offerings. Rather, astute brokers/agents have quickly become cognizant that many employers want – and, in fact, need – value for the benefit of dollars spent.
ENTER VISION CARE.
Established brokers and agents have a natural prospecting base for this product because so many of their group clients do not have vision care benefits. As for agents new to the business looking for a product that will open the door to prospects, their search could well be successfully concluded through the offering of vision care. Again, that’s because so many organizations do not have, and possibly never even thought about, a benefit that, once offered and utilized, has proven immensely popular among employers and employees alike.
So vision is ideal to present to small and large employers and affinity groups, and it uniquely fits the preferred provider organization (PPO) concept.
Its also a truism that a vision PPO network must be able to support large volume over a broad geographic expanse. Successful PPOs have developed a critical mass of providers capable of servicing the needs of large, nationally dispersed groups. Such provider networks are set up in such a way that 90 percent of the entire U.S. population is no more than a 20 minute drive from a contract provider.
Within the networks, discount care access plans have grown dramatically. Typically, these plans enable an employee/member to access a provider network to realize savings on frames and lenses, including contact lenses.
And because there is no insurance or risk transfer element in this design, the cost is very low – ranging from $6 to $12 per year per employee. This type of plan, which is easy to install and administer, has proven very popular.
Variations upon this theme allow for routine eye exams along with “optical discounts.” Such plans can be designed within the budgetary constraints of the employer by managing the frequency within which employees are allowed to use their benefits (for example, once a year or every two years) and scheduling the level of reimbursement for exams, frames and lenses (for example, $40 for exams, $30 for frames, $30 for lenses, etc.). Also quite affordable, these plans usually range from $2 to $12 per month per employee.
However, while these discount card access plans are very effective in terms of managing costs, in order to truly manage both costs and care, an organized provider panel must exist. Certain managed care vision care organizations, and specialty vision PPOs, have proven adept at keeping costs down, and the plans offered feature a broad spectrum of benefit of a diverse clientele.
So, as apparent, especially when considering the mentioned low marketing penetration, opportunities abound for the offering of vision care benefits.
But, all this said, how does a broker/agent know which vision plan is best for him/her to offer? As always, the answer is found within; that is, as concerns the product which best relates to the needs, budget considerations and administrative objectives of the client.
And the vision plan selected must have a provider network with adequate geographical representation. Also, all marketing materials, brochures, identification cards, and provider directories must be concise, easy to understand, and professionally prepared. Further, brokers/agents must know if the vision plan has consistently delivered on what it is suppose to deliver – and if there is a substantial referral base of satisfied clients.
Other guidelines brokers/agents should follow in selecting a vision care plan included ascertaining if valid quality control and assurance mechanisms are in place and related, whether customer service and administrative support mechanisms are easily accessible and user-friendly.
Are commissions paid accurately and promptly?
Do not be mislead into believing that your efforts will not be justified because the total sales volume on vision products is less than that generated by a major medical product. The fact is, many brokers/agents are generating consistent six figure incomes on vision care sales alone.
There are 150 million eyeglass/contact lens wearers in the U.S., and the aging of the baby boom generation will add to this percentage. Current annual expenditures exceed $12 billion on eyewear and $3 billion on eye examinations. Future projected expenditures are estimated to increase to 10 to 12 percent through the year 2010.
Summing up, vision benefits make good sense—and the offering of vision to a largely unexplored and growing marketplace can mean commission dollars not currently envisioned. The advice is to take a look at this waiting marketplace before your competitors do.
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