B Y DR. VALERIE SHEETY-PILON
Why eye health matters to you — as a patient and an employer
As inflation continues to squeeze employers, companies are exploring cost-cutting measures as a strategy to prepare for the future. While it’s prudent to reduce unnecessary expenses, cutting the wrong programs or initiatives may have unintended long-term financial consequences.
Take employee benefits for example. At first glance, some may think vision care is a ‘nice to have’ as a part of their employee benefits offerings but scaling back on this critical coverage might not be as cost effective as it may first appear.
Consider this: according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), one of the largest impacts on the health care system — and on employers who pay for a significant portion of health care costs — are chronic conditions. They range in severity and treatment and can require constant and expensive medical care.
Most people don’t realize that an eye exam goes far beyond just testing for clear vision. In a comprehensive eye exam, an eye doctor may be able to detect signs of more than 270 systemic conditions – many of which may be chronic afflictions that carry significant risk to an individual’s overall health.
According to the Partnership to Fight Chronic Diseases, more than 190 million Americans — or about 3 in 5 people — have one or more chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or heart disease. (Source: www.fightchronicdisease.org)
According to the ADA, diabetes alone accounts for $1 in every $4 spent in the U.S. health care system and people with diabetes average medical costs 2.3 times higher than those without.
(Source: www.diabetes.org). The CDC estimates health care spending associated with high blood pressure costs the nation nearly $50 billion each year, and predicts by 2030, that chronic diseases could cost American businesses more than $2 trillion in medical costs plus an extra $794 billion annually in lost employee productivity. (Source: www.cdc.gov).
So how does vision care tie in?
Most people don’t realize that an eye exam goes far beyond just testing for clear vision. In a comprehensive eye exam, an eye doctor may be able to detect signs of more than 270 systemic conditions – many of which may be chronic afflictions that carry significant risk to an individual’s overall health. (Source: www.aoa.org)
For more than 15 years, VSP® Vision Care has partnered with eye doctors across the country to identify and engage VSP members with chronic conditions through our claims system. What we have found is VSP network doctors are twice as likely to be the first touch point for patients seeking care, compared to other plans. Patients who underwent a WellVision Exam® often reported chronic conditions, like diabetes, before any other health care plan according to a November 2021 study published by Workpartners®, a leader in human capital management that analyzed the health outcomes of VSP members against those from other vision plans based on its proprietary research reference database of more than 4.3 million employees and their dependents. (Study: https://visionbenefits.vsp.com/dms-inline/pdfs/workpartners-case-study.pdf).
But what do you look for in a vision plan?
Looking at leaders in the U.S. economy, 64% of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to work for in 2021 chose a stand-alone vision plan, according to VSP data. Of those, 52% chose a stand-alone VSP plan— five times more than the next leading carrier. Why? As the only national not-for-profit vision care company, VSP Vision Care’s focus is on people, not profits. We structure our plans and programs to encourage utilization.
VSP is also the only carrier that offers urgent and medical eye care as standard on all full-service plans. For members with diabetes, VSP vision plans also cover of the costs for critical screenings and additional medical eye exams to monitor their eyes because we know it’s important to ensure a vision plan is designed for eye health and overall health.
Importantly, employees save, too. According to the same study by Workpartners:
“VSP members with a chronic condition incur fewer health care costs in the first year after diagnosis than members of other vision plans. More specifically, VSP members with diabetes avoided annual medical and drug costs of nearly $1,800 compared to members of other vision plans. For VSP members with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, the savings were even greater. They avoided annual medical and drug costs of more than $2,600 compared to members of other plans.”
The cost businesses incur for offering employer-provided vision benefits is much less in comparison to the cost of employer-provided health insurance — especially for those living with chronic conditions — meaning vision care is a relatively small investment for a potential big return for employees’ long-term health.
Most importantly, in addition to the cost-savings and productivity gains, preventive care like an eye exam helps employees live healthier, better lives. Our focus at VSP is to help our members see well and be well so they can reach their full potential. VSP members are generally healthier, according to Workpartners, leading to the conclusion that the identification of a chronic condition through a comprehensive eye exam leads to better health outcomes.
So take the time to review your vision benefits — and see how vision care can help your employees and your bottom line. Visit www.offervsp.com or call 800.216.6248 (option 4) for more information about VSP Vision Care plans today!
DR. VALERIE SHEETY-PILON is Vice President of Clinical & Medical Affairs at VSP Vision where she helps drive strategic initiatives aimed at raising awareness about eye health and its connection to overall wellness while providing insight into medical advancements that seek to benefit patient care. With more than 15 years’ experience as a Doctor of Optometry, she has dedicated much of her time to clinical research across numerous ophthalmic subspecialties and has an established a history of helping patients through the use of novel therapeutic agents and clinical adoption of transformative technology in the areas of digital health, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices.