NAVCP Survey Shows Stand-Alone Plans Prompt More Eye Exams

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INDIANAPOLIS—Consumers who belong to stand-alone vision care plans are twice as likely to get an annual comprehensive eye exam as those whose vision coverage is “bundled” with their major medical plan, according to a study sponsored by the National Association of Vision Care Plans (NAVCP).

The association’s first benefits-utilization survey, conducted with input from 10 major managed-vision companies, was previewed at the NAVCP’s annual conference in late April and officially released last month. The study indicates that 33.3 percent of the consumers surveyed who belong to stand-alone vision plans offering coverage for both exams and eyeglasses or contact lenses got annual eye exams. By comparison, just 16.3 percent of those enrolled in major medical plans with similar vision coverage had their eyes examined on an annual basis.

In the case of children, 29 percent of those whose families belong to stand-alone vision plans used their benefits, according to the survey, compared to 12.5 percent of the children whose parents have vision benefits bundled into their medical plans.

The survey included data from nine vision-plan providers that are primary NAVCP members, plus VSP Vision Care, which is an allied member through its Eyefinity/OfficeMate division.

The study reviewed eye-exam usage patterns of nearly 85 million Americans who were enrolled in vision benefits programs during 2008 and 2009. According to the NAVCP, “The results indicate that vision plan membership has been increasing and eye exams have been utilized at a higher growth rate than membership, indicating consumers value the wellness component of their vision benefits that allows for the recognition of symptoms of chronic disease, as well as assessment of the need for vision correction.

“The study further bolsters the NAVCP’s position that stand-alone vision plans should be included within the health-care exchanges contemplated by the recently passed health-care reform legislation,” the group stated.

Said the NAVCP’s president, Richard Sanchez, who is also president and CEO of Advantica, “Stand-alone vision plans offer a vital service and are an integral part of health-care delivery in our country. In order to ensure related improvements in overall health, and medical cost control for Americans, it is essential that stand-alone vision plans are widely available as part of the new health care landscape.”

Added Liz DiGiandomenico, president of EyeMed Vision Care and the NAVCP’s immediate past president, “We have always known the eye exam is an important component of overall health, but this first-ever study offers additional perspective on the role the vision plan plays in consumer usage patterns.”

And Rob Lynch, chief executive officer of VSP Vision Care, commented, “The key factor in an eye health and overall health maintenance program is the delivery of consistent care resulting in high consumer satisfaction. Patients with stand-alone vision benefits develop longer, deeper and more lasting relationships with their eye doctors than those with bundled insurance. As such, stand-alone patients are more likely to have a health care experience that has a more impactful role on the broader spectrum of their general health.”

—Cathy Ciccolella

cciccolella@jobson.com