On their own, vision benefits are an affordable way to help employees access eye exams, preventive screenings, glasses, contact lenses and elective eye treatments.
But the benefits of vision plans go beyond the eyes. Regular eye exams can often detect the early signs of costly chronic diseases.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, eye exams can detect:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Catching these conditions early often leads to better health outcomes, as well as individual and plan savings.
The increasing costs of chronic disease
Chronic health conditions create financial and health burdens for employees and employers. Diabetes and high blood pressure alone cost an estimated $458 billion a year, according to Employee Benefit News. This includes:
- Reduced productivity
- Increased absenteeism and medical leave
- Preventable turnover
- Higher health care costs
Data from the management firm Workpartners indicates vision exams can save health plans and employees thousands of dollars a year by identifying and managing chronic health conditions.
The Workpartners study found that detecting, preventing and managing diabetes and high blood pressure led to significant savings on medical and prescription drug costs. In addition to financial savings, the findings showed improvements in employee wellness, productivity and job satisfaction.
What to look for in vision benefits
Most vision plans provide an annual eye exam and vision screening at little or no cost to the employee. Beyond the basics, you’ll want a vision care provider to help employees make the connection between eye health and chronic health conditions.
The following questions can support your search for a vision plan:
- Will you provide communications on vision benefits to increase overall utilization and target at-risk employees?
- Will you work with in-network doctors to coordinate care for chronic health conditions?
- Can the vision plan be customized to include retinal screenings? (These screenings provide high-resolution images to help providers identify other chronic health conditions. If your employee population is at risk for prediabetes or diabetes, this feature could lead to savings and health.)
- In addition to benefits, will you provide education on the importance of monitoring vision changes and preventing or reducing chronic health conditions?
To explore your options
For more information on vision benefits, talk with your insurance or benefits adviser. They can help you explore plan options, including services, coverage and funding models. In addition, they can guide you on employee communications that connect vision benefits to chronic disease and total well-being.