Vision Benefits Help Employers Reduce Health Costs, Maintain Productivity and Lower Turnover, Study Says

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RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif.—Employers who offer their employees stand-alone vision benefits experienced $5.8 billion in cost savings over four years due to reduced health care costs, avoided productivity losses, and lower turnover rates, according to a recent study conducted by HCMS Group, a human capital risk management firm that analyzes data to help employers reduce waste in health benefits and increase human capital. The study and comparison groups were drawn from a population of 120,000 enrolled employees and spouses of six large commercial clients of both HCMS and VSP Vision Care. The study’s savings were measured based on multiplying per-employee savings over VSP Vision Care’s entire 60 million member enrollment.

While the amount of savings is not a comparison to not having vision coverage at all or not having vision coverage through a health plan, according to a VSP spokesperson, “It’s the estimated savings VSP achieves for our entire membership in terms of early detection through a VSP exam and the EHM model [VSP’s proprietary Eye Health Management program]. When people access their VSP vision benefit, a percentage realizes an earlier disease detection event sooner than they may have otherwise (the comparison group), and that results in earlier and better condition management . . . and therefore cost reductions.”

The spokesperson further clarified: “The study focused on stand-alone plans, specifically VSP. While all vision plans can offer some benefit, stand-alone plans have the highest utilization and therefore a greater opportunity for savings based on the study data.”

The HCMS study determined that individuals who receive an annual comprehensive eye exam are more likely to enter the health care system earlier for treatment of serious health conditions, thereby significantly reducing their long-term cost of care. Additionally, people are more likely to get an annual comprehensive eye exam than a routine physical, according to the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study also found that eye doctors were the first to identify signs of diabetes 34 percent of the time, high blood pressure 39 percent of the time, and high cholesterol 62 percent of the time in patients.

“With health care costs increasing by 89 percent in the past 10 years and employer uncertainty surrounding the impact of the Affordable Care Act, identifying benefits that provide a positive return on investment is more critical to companies than ever,” said Jim McGrann, president of VSP Vision Care. “The HCMS study confirms that employees’ access to a stand-alone vision benefit provides a first line of defense in identifying and managing conditions that are straining our health care system and employers’ bottom lines.”

HCMS found that employers can help manage costs through preventive benefits like vision care—producing savings of up to $3,120 per employee over four years. The study also determined that for every dollar invested in a comprehensive eye exam, employers saw a $1.45 return on investment through lower health care costs, improved employee productivity, and lower turnover rates.

The HCMS study also concluded that those who had a chronic condition identified through an eye exam needed less medication to manage their condition and were 26.7 percent less likely to have emergency room visits and hospital admissions versus patients who had diseases detected by another health care provider.

To conduct the study, HCMS matched vision claims data for members covered by VSP Vision Care to medical, pharmacy and employer data obtained from the clients’ medical and drug carriers. Over a period of four years, HCMS compared patients whose chronic health conditions were first identified as a result of a comprehensive VSP eye exam against those who entered the health care system through traditional means, such as a routine physical.