Vision Care: A New Growth Market
Today there’s a new and reengineered approach to the marketing of vision care benefits to a receptive audience.
The reengineered approach comes into the marketing spectrum based on lessons learned. In the past, some agents in their enthusiasm to make the sale at times failed to mention that the coverage being provided was less than 100 percent fully-paid. This, in turn, lead to discontent among some beneficiaries who perceived they were participants within a less than user-friendly plan.
Today’s providers of vision care benefits have learned from the past and are imparting to sellers and buyers of vision care what is and is not covered.
While much potential exists in this market, the penetration of vision care benefits in the labor force is less than 35 percent and, among the general population, fewer than 25 percent have access to formal vision care programs, according to surveys by such organizations as Hewitt Associates and A. Foster Higgins.
The Department of Health and Human Services says “64 percent of the work force over the age of 17 wears some form of corrective lenses.” And, the aging of the baby boom generation surely will add to this percentage.
This lack of penetration leaves a wide-open field for sales among a market of over 160 million eyeglass wearers in the United States. The established agent has a natural prospecting base for this product in his or her existing group clients and prospects. As for the newer agent, vision care benefits offer an effective door-opener.
Further, as organizations reduce many primary benefits, they have discovered that vision care is a low cost, ancillary benefit that can be a value to any program. It also uniquely fits the preferred provider organization concept.
In addition, the ever-growing senior population offers insurers another marketing opportunity. Because seniors require more frequent eye care, they are more aware of the costs and benefits associated with eye care. And, from a medical standpoint, regular eye examinations can pinpoint not only changes in vision, but also changes in blood pressure, development of cataracts, and adult-onset diabetes.
Although these medical conditions are usually covered by medical insurance, Medicare or Medicaid or gap policies, typically the eye exam or eyeglass materials are not covered. Recognizing this, some progressive companies marketing to the senior population have enhanced various product offerings with eye care “club” discount plans. These plans allow seniors to access specific vision care provider networks and receive substantial savings on the purchase of their eyewear.
Further, some companies are exploring the possibility of expanding vision care benefits to include the exam and materials reimbursement under the “new and innovative benefits” language referenced in Section 8c(l1) of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ model act relative to the 10 standardized Medicare supplement plans.
This concept is consistent with the expanded vision benefit design now in use by many health insurance carriers in their portfolios targeted at the under-65 market.
Vision care plans come in all shapes and sizes from the simplest discount card plans to the more complex scheduled benefit plans. Therefore, it behooves the agent to first determine the needs, wants, and budgetary requirement of the prospect to determine which plan is most appropriated.
In addition to identifying client needs, agents should be aware of the development of new technologies, such as laser surgical techniques.
Such surgical procedures based on laser technology are already being performed quite a bit in Canada and Europe but are still considered somewhat experimental in the United States and are not covered by many plans, whether they be indemnity or self-insured, or other.
Vision care represents an ever burgeoning marketplace. You may want to take a look and sharpen your focus on this low-cost and needed offering. Opportunities abound, as long as imagination, intelligence, integrity and initiative are utilized.
Paul J. Disser is chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Overland Park, Kansas based Spectrum Vision Systems, a managed vision care company.