Providing employees with vision insurance can make routine screenings and care far more affordable according to online consumer guide All About Vision.com. But not all insurance plans are the same. When you think about your choices for insurance, remember that there are multiple types of eye health outlets. Each suits different needs and price points.

Are All Eye Doctors the Same?

Going to the eye doctor doesn’t seem like it should be something that differs from one location to the next, but there are multiple types of eye care professionals. Employees want access to some level of eye care, and what you select often determines where they can go. Consider a few specific types of providers and the advantages that each of them offers:

  • Independent optometrists: These licensed professionals specialize in function and disorders of the eye, according to the vision information website VisionAware. They prescribe lenses and glasses and provide screenings and certain types of treatment. Care is all-inclusive in most situations. They generally operate independent businesses and offices. Some may have limited hours, similar to a typical doctor’s hours, so this may limit accessibility to some individuals who are working.
  • Ophthalmologists: These providers are doctors who have specialized in eye health. They treat eye diseases and perform eye surgery. They may also give routine eye exams and prescribe glasses and lenses even for people who do not have eye conditions. Ophthalmologists can treat conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and strabismus (wandering eye). They can also perform tests to screen for high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus, as explained by EyeCare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Depending on the nature of the visit, medical insurance, vision insurance or both may be billed.
  • Traditional, independent opticians: Opticians have the similar, independent setup to optometrists in many cases. Opticians, though, are trained only to supply, prepare and dispense optical appliances, as VisionAware explains. They may or may not be required to be licensed, depending on state requirements. Generally they do not provide long-term care of eye diseases, and as a result these providers tend to be effective for a basic level of care. Independent opticians often offer some level of weekend care, but this differs from one location to the next.
  • Retail locations with optometrists on staff: Some department stores, mall outlets and specialized eye-care franchises will be covered by your vision insurance. Depending on the location, the optometrists may be part of the staff, or they may be independent contractors who rent a space at the storefront. These locations tend to offer lower rates and fast, reliable service. Retail offerings include glasses and contacts, but these may be limited based on affiliations that the franchise has with certain brand manufacturers. Nevertheless, selection is usually optimal for kids, adults and seniors. Retail locations also tend to offer weekend and evening hours, moderate pricing and overall convenience.
  • Online: Online sources of glasses and lenses are becoming more readily available. The ease of buying contacts and frames online is one of the key features here. Online vendors, however, cannot diagnose or fit contacts or glasses. Individuals will still need to visit a care provider for a fitting and to get a current prescription before ordering online. Different online vendors also allow the opportunity to shop around for a lower price.

Employers should consider a vision package that provides access to all types of licensed vision providers. This gives employees choices for how they receive ongoing eye care and health screenings, and benefits may include packages with exams, glasses and contact lens coverage up to a certain level. Ensuring ease of access, convenient hours and fast turnarounds on eye wear helps ensure that employees remain happy with benefits available to them.

Sandy Baker is a full-time freelance writer specializing in health, personal finance and Internet marketing. Her long-term history online has included publications with companies including Marriott Hotels, The New York Times and dozens of other small and medium-sized businesses. She is also published in print with award-winning books such as The Complete Guide to Estate Planning, Complete Guide to Early Retirement, The Complete Bankruptcy Guide for Consumers and Small Businesses and The Complete Guide to Organic Lawn Care.