Vision Care, Once Seen As ‘Stepchild’ Of Benefits, Grows In Popularity Among Employers, Employees
As agents, brokers and the companies they represent on both the property/casualty and life/health sides of the industry aisle continue to scurry hither and yon in search of something of value, many of them have overlooked the booming and ever-growing vision care marketplace.
Those who take the time to do so will find a huge and waiting audience. And, related, they will quickly discover that, with increasing frequency, vision care is something both employers and employees are requesting be added to their benefit package.
Yet, despite this heightened interest in vision, the marketplace penetration – at least for now – is extremely low. Specifically, it’s less than 25 per cent among the U.S. population; less than 35 per cent among the nation’s workforce. That’s reason alone for any savvy marketer to learn more about vision care offerings.
Growing In Popularity
Those who do so will find that vision, once considered the stepchild of ancillary benefits, continues to grow in popularity among employers and employees alike because it’s become increasingly apparent that, sooner or later, practically all of us will need vision care.
This ongoing need is undoubtedly linked to the graying of America and the related fact that people are living longer and, sooner or later, will need eye care. There’s also the undeniable fact that many – if not most – of us spend countless hours at work and home before a computer screen.
The further facts are that of the some 150 million people in the workforce 17 years and older, nearly 64 per cent of them wear eyeglasses or contact lenses; some $3 billion is spent annually on eye examinations; and it is estimated that vision care expenditures will increase 10 to 12 per cent annually through the year 2010.
So it’s apparent that there’s a market. And it’s one that has become increasingly sophisticated due to all the publicity given in recent years to proper health care. Fortunately, today, more than ever, people have become cognizant that proper eye care can aid in helping to detect early signs of health-stealing and costly problems such as glaucoma, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
So, what’s needed, and what managed vision care organizations provide, is a cost-efficient way to help insurers and agent/brokers alike provide needed and low-cost products and services to a waiting marketplace which includes: Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, associations, unions, financial institutions, municipalities, and school districts.
Types Of Benefits
Vision care benefits come in various shapes and sizes; a broad spectrum of benefits designs have been created to meet the individual and group needs of small, mid-sized, and large client bases. Among the innovations in this field are discount card access plans. These plans come with substantial savings on frames, eyeglasses, and contact lenses for the member.
The plans are easy to install and administer through vision care networks which support large volume over a broad geographical base. For example, our company, which is a preferred provider organization, has more than 6,000 independent optometrists under contract who serve over 3.5 million members in Preferred Vision Care and Preferred Vision Plus plans throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Employees/members are offered discounts (wholesale costs) for eyeglasses and extras such as tinting, scratch or anti-reflective coatings, and they save a minimum of 20 percent on contact lenses and other sundries; examples being solutions and cases. All plan members have to do to receive such discounts is present their Preferred Vision card at any location listed on a furnished directory of providers.
Also, because there is no risk transfer or insurance element in the discount card benefit, the cost is very low: $6 to $12 per year per employe. And, of course, the low cost adds to the attractiveness of the offering.
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 the employee’s use of their benefits – once every 12 months or every 24 months. Also, it can be managed by scheduling the level of reimbursement for exams, frames and lenses. Such plans range in cost from $2 to $12 per month per employee.
Naturally, it’s important for those considering marketing the product to determine the needs and budgetary restraints of the employer in order to tailor the most appropriate plan to fit. And the sales emphasis should be centered on the mentioned facts:
– The majority of employees 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 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.
Speaking of clients, vision care is a natural add-on for veteran agents and brokers to offer. As for newer agents, vision can – and often has – proven an effective door-opener…and that’s because so few employers currently have it as a part of their benefit package.
As for insurers who may want to consider adding vision to their product line, they’ll be gratified to know that, within the PPO structure, it’s a complete turnkey plan. So that means no risk, no claims, no paperwork. Just profits.
You may want to take another – or first – look at vision care. . . no longer “the stepchild” of benefits.