According to the most recent U.S. Department of Labor National Compensation Survey, just 26 percent of workers in private industry had access to employer-provided vision care benefits. In comparison, 70 percent had access to healthcare benefits, 68 percent had access to outpatient prescription drug benefits and 45 percent had access to dental benefits.
Companies that don’t offer vision benefits may want to rethink their strategy. Vision disorders carry a hefty price tag for employers. They can result in a marked decrease in productivity, costing businesses an estimated $8 billion annually, according to a report by the Vision Council of America (VCA).
“Uncorrected vision problems are costing employers billions of dollars,” said Ed Greene, CEO of VCA. “Direct medical costs associated with vision disorders exceed similar medical expenditures for breast cancer, lung cancer and HIV, yet few Americans get regular eye exams or have vision coverage in their health plans,” said Greene.
The employees most at risk for developing vision problems that affect their work performance include engineers, construction workers, stockbrokers, software developers, accountants and administrative assistants. The VCA report found that an estimated 11 million Americans have uncorrected vision problems, ranging from refractive errors (near- or far-sightedness) to sight-threatening diseases such as glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration. Nearly 90 percent of those who use a computer at least three hours a day suffer vision problems associated with computer-related eye strain.
Another study cited in the Journal of the American Optometric Association found that in the presence of very little visual degradation, such as glare on a monitor, employees show an efficiency decline of four percent to 19 percent in accomplishing standard tasks. Translating that percentage into dollars, just a four percent productivity increase for an employee earning $30,000 per year would be worth $1,200. And here may be the most telling statistic of the VCA report: employers gain as much as $7 for every $1 spent on vision coverage.
Types of Vision Benefits
Employers can offer vision benefits through vision insurance or a discount vision plan. Typically, vision insurance provides enrollees with eye care services in exchange for an annual premium, a yearly deductible for each enrolled member, and a copayment each time a member accesses a service. A discount vision plan provides eye care at discounted rates after the employer pays an annual premium or membership fee. The participant pays the total bill, less the applicable discount, at the time of service. Both kinds of vision plans can be custom-designed to meet the different requirements of a wide range of customers, including small and medium-sized businesses, nonprofits, associations, school districts and unions.
Vision insurance generally covers the following basic services:
- Annual eye examinations, including dilation
- Eyeglass frames
- Eyeglass lenses
- Contact lenses
- LASIK and PRK vision correction at discounted rates.
Group vision insurance costs vary, but typically premiums range between $5 and $15 per employee per month, depending on benefits selected. For both employees and employers, vision care costs only a fraction of the cost of vision problems or impairment. For more information, please contact Rhodes-Warden Insurance inLebanonat (541) 258-2131,Albany(541) 967-8062 or Stayton (503) 769-7105.
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