Contributed by Paul J. Disser

– A Growing Market

– Strong Selling Points

– Choosing a Provider

It’s no secret to savvy insurance agents that vision care is always near the top of the list of benefits most requested by employees, according to the findings of countless surveys. And now, with the addition of laser vision correction (LVC) surgery added to the benefits package on an elective and discount basis, what has been an ever-growing marketplace seems destined to further expand with sales opportunities probably never before envisioned.

There are 150 million Americans who wear glasses or contact lenses. Many of them have availed themselves of various vision care plans which offer eyewear, exams and optical goods on a discount basis. Yet as satisfied as this huge populace seems to be with the products/services provided, a large percentage of them have requested that eye laser surgery be added to the benefits of this popular supplemental product.

What this means to agents is a newfound ability to give clients and prospects exactly what they have long sought. The sale of other insurance products/services will often follow.

Vision often serves as a door opener. It can also serve as a valuable add-on product to the primary product being sold, whether that offering be life or health insurance, disability, dental, long term care or whatever.

An Under-served Market

The current marketing penetration for vision care benefits is relatively low. It’s less than 35 percent in the U.S. labor force, and less than 25 percent among the general population, according to surveys by such organizations as LIMRA, A. Foster Higgins, and Hewitt Associates.

Further, some $3 billion is spent annually on eye examinations, and it is estimated that vision care expenditures will increase 10 to 12 percent annually through the year 2010.

Such impressive facts and figures should encourage agents to consider adding vision care to their portfolio. If they do they’ll quickly discover it is usually a relatively easy sale. Although employees have long been asking for it, most employers have yet to offer vision care as a benefit.

For those who do offer vision care to employers and employees, here are some strong selling points to use:

“Mr./Ms. Prospect, couldn’t help but notice as I opened my proposal that the first thing you did was to put on your glasses for a better look. Did you know that every day, more than 150 million people in the United States, including probably 70 percent of your employees, perform the same function to do their jobs? If I could show you a plan that would help your employees and save them money in the process, would you be interested?”

“Mr./Ms. Prospect, did you know that the majority of adults and many children in this country are in need of glasses or contact lenses? The chances are considerable that many of the adults are your employees. So, you may–and I know your employees would–be interested in a low cost vision care plan that will prove extremely beneficial, and save them a considerable amount of money through discount offerings.”

More Selling Points

Established agents, whether life-health, multi-line or property-casualty, have a natural prospecting base for vision among clients and prospects. As for new agents, vision can prove an effective entry, due to the fact that so few employers offer vision plans.

Another solid selling point is that an eye examination by a qualified professional is good preventive medicine. Some diseases, including glaucoma, high blood pressure and diabetes, can be detected at early stages by an eye exam. Baby boomers now turning 50, many of them suddenly in need of vision care, will substantially increase the percentage of prospective vision care plan members.

A large percentage of employees spend a great part of their workday in front of a computer screen. A qualified eye professional can provide helpful advice to minimize eyestrain and other concerns associated with such exposure.

Ancillary benefits such as vision offered to small and large employer groups provide needed services, while creating new sales and revenue opportunities. Employers are not closing the door to new benefits; rather, they have become much more selective. It is up to the agent to offer the most reliable, appropriate and cost effective product. Doing that, will greatly improve the likelihood of completing a sale and of getting referrals.

Most employers are generally receptive to something that is needed by their employees since it boosts morale and enhances the employer’s image. And, if the offering is low cost, which vision most definitely is, so much the better. This represents good news for the employer and employee.

A Turnkey Plan

Vision care uniquely fits within the preferred provider organization (PPO) concept…meaning, once the sale is made, it’s a complete turnkey plan with no risk, no underwriting and no paperwork for the agent. This is largely attributable to the fact that vision care discount card plans, a major part of the offering, come with no risk transfer or insurance element in the benefit…thus keeping costs extremely low.

How does an agent know which vision plan to offer? The plan selected must meet their client’s/prospect’s unique needs, budget-constraints and administrative objectives. Also, to assure customer satisfaction, simplicity, integrity, quality and economy are required.. .and all are offered by the best vision care plans.

Some vision care plans cost as little as $12 to $18 per year per employee. Variations can be built in which allow for routine eye examinations with optical discounts and designed within the employer’s budgetary considerations; for example, by managing the frequency of the employee’s use of the benefit to once every year or every two years. In addition, it can be managed by scheduling the level of reimbursement for exams, frames and lenses. The cost for such plans ranges from $5 to $12 per month per employee.

Agents should make sure the plan has adequate geographic representation, and ascertain whether it operates nationally, regionally or locally, ..the best plans have been set up so that a vision care plan member is no further than a 20-minute drive from the optical provider.

Other guidelines for agents to follow in selecting a plan include:

– Is member satisfaction guaranteed?

– Has the vision plan consistently delivered what it is supposed to deliver?

– Is there a substantial referral base of satisfied clients?

– Are customer service and administrative easy to understand?

– Are commissions paid accurately and promptly?

If all these factors exist, then you’ve found the right vision care plan to offer to a waiting and receptive marketplace of small to large companies, associations, unions, financial institutions, school districts, municipalities and various other affinity groups.