SAN CARLOS, Calif.—A new survey conducted by The Harris Poll for XP Health finds that employees value vision care as much as dental, but many are confused about how to take advantage of it, even when they have vision benefits. According to the research, vision benefits and vision health are seen as valuable or very valuable by most, similar to overall physical health care. The survey of 1,009 full-time employed adults in the U.S., aged 25 and over who are eligible to receive vision benefits from their employer, was conducted online between Feb. 3 to 13, 2023 by The Harris Poll.

The survey was commissioned by XP Health, a company described as "dedicated to democratizing vision care with a digital-first vision benefits platform," to explore key experiences, challenges and desires for vision care among U.S. adults.

Across America, the vast majority of employed adults see the clear value of vision benefits, with 94 percent saying they are valuable, including 60 percent finding them to be very valuable. Eighty-two percent of respondents say vision benefits are equally important as general medical insurance. Moreover, they find vision health very important at 75 percent, on par with dental at 77 percent and ahead of annual preventative screenings at 69 percent.

The survey also revealed that employees raise pervasive concerns over cost, the biggest barrier to taking care of vision, both for those with and without benefits. Out-of-pocket costs were cited as the most common factor preventing employees from taking care of their vision at 30 percent, while 55 percent of respondents feel like they end up paying a lot out-of-pocket for their vision care needs. Further, 64 percent of glasses wearers agree with the statement, “I often leave my appointments with sticker shock with how much my glasses cost.”

"Despite 75 percent of employees considering vision benefits as very important, only 42 percent are very satisfied, which is the standard we want our sector to achieve," said Antonio Moraes, CEO, and co-founder of XP Health. “That means millions of employees who deserve benefits they can rave about are not getting them, and it presents an opportunity and a responsibility for both providers and human resources professionals to help alleviate confusion and reduce costs to help employees access the highest quality care.

With the emergence of remote work and eight-hour workdays in front of screens, the days when vision care was a simple ‘check the box benefit’ are gone,” Moraes said.

According to 86 percent of employees surveyed, vision benefits are an important part of their health care budget, and 68 percent say they are not likely to sacrifice their vision care due to economic uncertainty. The survey points to gaps between how people value vision care and what they are getting. It appears that clear and accessible information from employers about what the benefits exist and how/when to access benefits might help encourage enrollment and usage.

More than two-in-five of employed adults with vision benefits have some difficulty understanding what’s covered, and the majority wish their employer provided more helpful information. More than a quarter say the biggest reason they don’t always use benefits to cover vision care costs is lack of clarity on what is and isn’t covered. Another 36 percent said clearer information about their coverage could prompt more people to enroll in vision benefits.

“The message is clear—people value their vision but are often stymied by confusion about what their benefits cover,” added Moraes. “The lack of clarity about what benefits exist and how and/or when to access them is keeping many from taking advantage of their vision care benefits. And with many consumers concerned with eyecare costs in challenging economic times, it’s imperative that benefits are not left on the table.”

The rise of remote work has exacerbated problems for American eyes. For most employed adults, screen time both overall and related to remote work has sharply increased over the past three years, and the majority believe this is having a negative impact on their vision.

But despite this, 52 percent of respondents report they aren’t more likely to take any extra steps to seek out eyecare. Additionally, most don’t feel their employer has provided support related to employees’ vision care since working remotely. While 62 percent feel their employer cares about their vision needs, over half wish their employers would do more to support remote workers’ vision needs specifically.

Source: Conducted by The Harris Poll for XP Health