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P-C Agents Should Focus On Vision Care

Property-casualty agents looking to cross-sell life-health products will do themselves and their clients and prospects a huge favor by focusing on vision care benefits.

Vision care, once considered the “stepchild” of the employee benefits family, is that no more. Although it has grown through the years to be considered a much-desired peripheral product, the marketing penetration remains relatively low, thus representing a viable and popular product-service to offer clients and prospects. Especially for younger p-c agents, offering vision care is a door-opening plan which can–and often does–lead to the sale of other insurance coverages.

Vision care is always rated at or near the top of the list of benefits most desired. This is so, and will continue to be so, because the vast majority of Americans wear eyeglasses or contact lenses and, of those who don’t, many are in need of vision care or someday will be.

Vision care plans afford agents an opportunity to stand out from the crowd which, in turn, often–if not usually–leads to making what has proven to be a relatively easy sale.

And, in seeking vision care providers, agents are strongly advised to concentrate on those who offer a nationwide network of eye care professionals who dispense eyewear to plan members in their community at savings as much as 60 percent over retail. What’s more, such providers should be able to furnish one card for the entire family, with no restrictions, and with members being free to choose any doctor within a vast provider network.

Our research indicates that over 160 million people in the United States need corrective vision products, 70 percent of whom do not now have vision care benefits. Think how attractive such a package will be when you provide it to clients and prospects.

Vision care, offered through preferred provider organizations, known as PPOs, is a complete turnkey plan, with all the legwork being done for agents and their clientele. There’s no risk. No paperwork. Just profits.

The key points that are relevant to any vision program (or, in fact, to any benefits program) are:

* The provider’s length of time in business.
* Competency and accessibility of the provider network.
* Professional staff capabilities.
* Turnaround time on any claims submitted.
* Good communications materials–information that’s attractive and easy to understand.

Also, agents who are interested to the point that they will further investigate the vision care market with an eye on possibly adding the product-service to their portfolio should determine whether the vision care provider has a system that:

* Serves not only the needs of the large vision market, but one that is flexible enough to grow and evolve as the market changes.
* Enables the client to cut costs and save dollars and pass those savings on to the consumer.
* Provides correct and quick data to the customer which, in turn, enables the organization to better manage its business.
* Provides customer service with ease of administration, and with no questions to be answered or concerns to be addressed.

As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, today’s consumer is much more sophisticated. Consumers are looking for answers and they’re looking for solutions to their problems. Health care itself is broadening in its scope in terms of what have come to be considered as basic health care rights. And, just about always nowadays, clients and prospects are looking for value-added benefits. Vision care provides them with many of those benefits and features already mentioned.

What any agent–through an established vision care provider–should be able to furnish is a user friendly package that can be applied across a broad spectrum of users: insurance company clientele, financial institution credit card customers, association members, Fortune 500 companies, and small- and mid-sized companies. This package should include an up-to-date, computerized administrative system supported by a phone system that serves virtually day and night the needs of the various memberships.

What those enrolled in vision care plans of established providers especially like is the system’s easy administration. Users are provided with a toll-free 1-800 number, then simply go to their local provider for the prescription for their glasses and their lenses, and receive a discount. So it’s a plan that’s easy to use, and it doesn’t make members “jump through hoops” to get their benefits.

Also, doctors who have signed on as members of preferred provider vision care networks have commented that they often hear from patients who say that with their vision care plan, the patients are able to choose the exact type of frames or contact lenses that best suits their needs.

This enables the doctors to provide them with an outline of what is available and what their out-of-pocket (and discounted) cost will be. In turn, this means that the doctor’s cost in terms of administering the service are much lower, and with much less paperwork for them to fill out.

As is hopefully apparent by now, the provision of vision care benefits is a “win-win” situation for everyone–agents, those enrolled in the plan, the PPOs, and the doctors within the providing networks. In addition, it’s very important for agents to know that since there is no risk transfer or insurance element in the discount card benefit, the cost is very low: $6 to $12 per year per employee.

Variations can be built in which allow for routine eye examinations with the optical discounts, and can be designed within the employer’s budgetary considerations–for example, by managing the frequency of employee’s use of their benefits to once every 12 months or every 24 months. Also, it can be managed by scheduling the level of reimbursements for exams, frames and lenses. Such plans range in cost from $2 to $12 per month per employee.

Earlier, it was mentioned that the marketing penetration of vision care benefits is–at least for now–relatively low. Specifically, our research indicates it’s less than 35 percent among the nation’s workforce. This represents some 150 million people in the workforce 17 years and older, nearly 64 percent of whom wear eyeglasses or contact lenses. And, not so incidentally, 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.

Bottom line–for those p-c agents who might want to consider cross selling vision care, there are these two salient selling facts: the majority of adults (and many children) in this country wear or are in need of corrective lenses; and a vision care plan will not only prove extremely beneficial to the employer and employee, but it’s a low-cost coverage that will save them money via discount offerings.

The citing of both these facts always, in our experience, garners the undivided attention of the client or prospect.

By the way, there’s something else for p-c agents to eye concerning vision care. P-c agents and their life-health counterparts should also keep in mind, and relay to clients and prospects, that every state enforces some standard for visual acuity (sharpness of drivers).

About three-quarters of U.S. states have set a minimum of 20/40 vision in the better eye with best correction.

What this means is that your clients and prospects can read at 20 feet away the same thing on an eye chart that someone with normal vision can read at 40 feet. Therefore, you can wear eyeglasses or contact lenses if you need them to pass the driver’s eye test. However, this also means that you must wear them every time you drive.

But if your clients/prospects fail the test, according to optometrists, that means that they’ll probably need to have their lenses updated.

This is yet another major reason–considering the millions of drivers in this country–that agents should cite to their clients and prospects in promoting the need for vision care benefits.

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Preferred Vision Care
P.O. Box 2073
Edwards, CO 81632
Phone: 913-451-1672