By Laurie LoFranco
Game of Thrones. Wonder Woman. Ariana Grande. What do these three topics have in common? They all earned top spots last year on Twitter’s trending topics list. While brokers and benefits professionals don’t need to be up-to-date on the most popular TV shows or pop songs, they should be in tune with what their employees want out of their benefits—especially with open enrollment here. This means looking beyond general medical benefits and taking a deeper dive into how to present popular ancillary benefits, like vision.
One of the most popular elected benefits, vision benefits are also among the most desired by employees—and simply offering them can give employers a tremendous leg up. In fact, 98 percent of employees believe that offering vision coverage shows that a company cares about its employees’ well-being, according to the 2017 Transitions Optical Employee Perceptions of Vision Benefits survey (online survey of 1,000+ nationally representative U.S. adults ages 18+, employed full-time or part-time, whose employers offer vision benefits). Additionally, 87 percent of employees say they’d be more likely to stay at a company offering vision benefits covering premium lens and frame options.
In order to present the best possible vision packages to customers, it’s important for benefits brokers to stay on top of the latest offerings and trends in vision benefits. What are these trends? According to the 2018 Transitions Optical survey, the top three motivators for employees to enroll in a vision plan are:
- Having access to full coverage of premium lens options.
- Having a better understanding that simply getting eye exams can provide early detection of several serious health issues.
- Understanding that utilizing their vision benefits can help them save on their overall medical costs.
Below are five strategies exploring these trends and more—helping brokers better navigate the benefits enrollment period and ensure their customers are seeing the value that vision benefits can bring to their workforce.
- Emphasize coverage of premium lens options.
True or false: if an employee is seeing 20/20, that employee is seeing his or her best. False. While getting an updated eyeglass or contact lens prescription is critical, optimal vision goes beyond this. Consider the process you’d go through if you were picking out a new television or camera. It’s all about the optics, isn’t it?
Premium lens options—like anti-reflective coatings to reduce glare and photochromic lenses, which adapt and darken in changing lighting conditions—can help to improve visual clarity. Many photochromic lenses also provide protection from harmful blue light and ultraviolet (UV) light, which can lead to short and long-term visual problems. Offering these premium lens options through a vision plan isn’t just helpful—it’s desired. According to the survey, 92 percent of employees said they would be more likely to schedule an eye exam within the next 12 months if their vision plan covered at least one premium lens option. Those belonging to Gen Z—which will soon make up a growing portion of the workforce—were significantly more likely to say they would be very likely to schedule an eye exam. Additionally, offering premium lens options can also help to sway employees who aren’t already taking advantage of this important benefit option. According to the survey, of the employees not already enrolled in a vision plan, six in 10 said they would be more likely to enroll if the plan provided full coverage of premium lens options.
- Educate on the link between eye health and overall health.
It’s not a secret that routine eye exams—covered by many vision benefits plans—are instrumental in helping to ensure employees have an up-to-date prescription. But beyond vision correction, eye exams are also imperative for maintaining both eye and overall health.
According to The Vision Council, more than 10 million Americans have undiagnosed eye conditions or problems that can ultimately lead to visual impairment, vision loss and/or increased medical costs. Additionally, many of the most common eye conditions or diseases—like glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration—have little or no early warning signs. Glaucoma, specifically, has often been referred to as the “silent thief of sight” because of this reason.
Annual, comprehensive eye exams—with dilation—can act as preventive measure for detecting many common eye conditions. Beyond eye health, comprehensive eye exams can also play a vital role in protecting an employee’s overall health and wellness. Because signs of certain systemic diseases—such as diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure)—can be seen in the eye, these conditions can often be detected through a dilated eye exam. Eye exams are particularly important for those who are at risk for diabetes—as signs of the disease can be seen in the eye in its earliest stages. For this reason, the eye doctor may even be the first health professional to make an initial diagnosis of diabetes—being able to make referrals for earlier management to help reduce overall health costs and burden of the disease.
It’s important for benefits brokers to communicate the link between eye and overall health to employers so that they can, in turn, communicate this to their employees. Consider that nearly six in 10 employees (56 percent) said they would be more likely to enroll in a vision plan if they knew that eye exams could provide early detection of serious health issues, according to the Transitions Optical survey. Offering this education is important to all employees. Understanding the role that vision benefits play in overall health was the highest motivator for enrollment for Gen X employees—and the second-highest motivator for Millennials, Baby Boomers and Gen Z employees.
- Put your sight on savings.
Beyond contributing to a happier and healthier workforce, offering vision benefits can also affect an employer’s bottom line. This is a strong selling point for clients. When employees can’t see well, they often don’t feel well—with poor or miscorrected vision leading to problems such as eyestrain, eye fatigue and headaches. Sub-par vision also means employees won’t be able to work as well—leading to reduced productivity or even time away from work.
But don’t just tell this to customers—show them. Many vision plans and companies offer insights into the savings possible through vision benefits. Transitions Optical, for example, offers a Vision Plan Savings Calculator, which can be used free-of-charge by benefits brokers and employers to calculate the savings possible for a workforce through a premium vison plan.
The interactive calculator—which can be found at HealthySightWorkingForYou.org/Calculator—allows employers to input their company’s workforce demographics by age, gender and ethnicity (or use pre-populated national averages) to determine how many of their employees are likely to have vision- and eye health-related issues. The calculator explores how routine, comprehensive eye exams can provide early detection and treatment of various eye diseases and serious overall health issues—reinforcing the important role that vision benefits can play in preventive care. The calculator also reviews the impact of several common and correctable vison problems, which can take a huge toll on an employee’s health and productivity if left untreated. Additionally, the calculator provides information about the importance of selecting a plan that covers premium lens options—which can enhance and protect an employee’s vision.
- Jackets, scarves and dental—it’s time to bundle up!
Are your clients ready to bundle up? While you may have a couple of months left before it’s time to start thinking about a winter wardrobe (especially here in California), open enrollment is fast approaching—and bundling vision and dental benefits under the same plan is a great option for increasing enrollment and staying competitive with offerings. According to the survey, nearly nine in 10 employees (88 percent) say they’d be more likely to enroll in a vision plan if it included dental benefits as part of a bundle. Vision and dental benefits don’t have to be offered by the same company to be part of a bundle deal. For example, if an employer already offers EyeMed benefits and is satisfied with this vision plan, it can be bundled with a dental plan from a different company as part of one offering.
- Stock your toolkit: educate, educate, educate.
Perhaps the most important thing benefits brokers and employers can do when offering vision benefits is to provide education. Nearly all employees surveyed (96 percent) said that if they have a better understanding of the options that their vision plan includes, they will be more likely to enroll. Start compiling your education toolkit with information on the topics that matter most to employees, including:
- Coverage of premium lens options,
- Information about eye and overall health issues,
- Cost savings possible through a vision benefit, and
- Information about package bundles.
Many vision plans already offer online portals and toolkits for their members that provide this type of education—which can make it easier for both benefits brokers and employers. For example, EyeMed encourages employee enrollment and utilization, as well as employer open enrollment support with a number of simple, but helpful, tools.
Members can visit enroll.eyemed.com to understand the vision benefit and get help to think through enrolling in the vision benefit with its interactive “concierge” decision tool, LevEye. Because benefits communication is important to do throughout the year, these tools are available to employees at any time.
And for employers, EyeMed provides easy self-service open enrollment resources online at eyemedeyeq.com/oe/. It offers things like cut and paste intranet articles and email content, videos, fliers, signs, postcards, brochures and buckslips—in English and in Spanish. It’s important to have many options available to tailor the communication to the needs of each company and their employee population.
Other optical companies and websites—such as HealthySightWorkingForYou.org—also offer complimentary tools that can be used by brokers, employers and employees.
Staying ahead of trends in vision care—and making sure they’re front and center when talking about benefits with clients—is imperative to ensure both employers and their employees not only understand the importance of vision benefits, but are also taking full advantage of them. Employees want coverage of premium lens options—as well as education about the link between routine eye exams and improved overall health—so why not give it to them?
Laurie LoFranco , vice president, Keenan & Associates, has more than 28 years of experience in human resources and employee benefits. Laurie joined Keenan & Associates in 2008 after spending the previous 12 years as the human resources director at a city in Southern California. Laurie graduated from the College of Notre Dame with a Degree in Human Services and holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from California State University, San Bernardino.
What’s the Generation Breakdown?
The generational breakdown for the 2018 Employee Perceptions of Vision Benefits survey can be found below:
Generation Z: Ages 18-19
Millennials: Ages 20-36
Generation X: Ages 37-52
Boomer: Ages 53-71