Integrating a Vision Plan with Wellness and Disease Management

Article excerpt

EYEMED VISION CARE

Vision benefits offer employers a new way to enhance wellness and disease management programs. Many companies recognize the link between vision care and overall health. The next step: tying vision benefits into corporate health management programs.

Chronic conditions affect more than 130 million Americans and represented 75% of the $2.2 trillion spent on health care in America in 2007, according to the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease. Many of these conditions could have been identified sooner, improving outcomes and potentially lowering future medical costs.

Comprehensive eye exams can help in these efforts, offering unobstructed views of blood vessels and allowing for early detection of conditions like hypertension and diabetes that often impact the cardiovascular system before symptoms appear elsewhere.

Companies looking to integrate vision care with disease management need a vision plan that offers specific program capabilities. When combined effectively, these features can result in a measurable return on investment through preventive health cost savings.

Diverse Network Composition

Regular comprehensive eye exams are the critical input linking vision care and disease management. Selecting a diverse network built on access and choice helps remove common utilization barriers.

A vision network should include a mix of optometrists and ophthalmologists that operate in both retail-affiliated offices and in private practices to encourage usage of vision benefits. Eye doctors next to retail dispensaries offer a convenience consumers desire. In fact, Jobson Optical Research reported that over 50% of eye care dollars in 2007 were spent at an optical retail location.

The Benefit Design Begins with an Annual Eye Exam

Annual eye exam coverage is the single most important element of a wellness-based vision plan. Eye exams monitor the health of the eyes, which may or may not be related to vision correction. Vision problems can also be a sign of a health condition rather than a refractive error. For that reason, adults should receive eye exams annually (or at the frequency recommended by their doctor).

Enrollment Communication and On-Site Events

Once a company selects a vision plan, it's critical to encourage members to enroll (for voluntary plans) and use the program. Employers should look for vision plans that provide a full slate of communication materials before, during and after enrollment to promote utilization.

In addition, on-site events combining education with health risk assessments can increase plan utilization. Worksite events also offer an easy, low-cost way to provide employees access to basic health screenings.

Companies offering on-site support also increase employees' perceived value of the benefit. …